Fireworks Friday indeed: Express jack three homers in walk-off win
He'd be lying if he said he wasn't looking to send the ball into orbit.
After having already come back in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie it, Daniel Salters stepped into the batter's box Friday night at Carson Park with a man on first and two outs. And the power hitter from Dallas Baptist had one thing on his mind.
"I was honestly looking for something to hit over the fence, so I was sitting fastball," Salters said.
And on the third pitch from St. Cloud Rox' closer Kevin Burgee, he got one and launched it halfway up the back pine trees way beyond the right field fence at Carson Park for a 6-4 Eau Claire Express comeback victory in front of 2,379 fans.
"Thank the lord he gave it to me," Salters said. "I put a good swing on it, and it turned out well."
But it would have never gotten to that point had it not been for a Jack Zoellner lead-off home run to start the inning. Zoellner, who had been in a slump at the plate, collected his first hit in four games by hitting a towering fly ball just to the right of the scoreboard to tie the game.
“When I hit it, I was thinking it was going to be in the gap, so I was thinking two right away," Zoellner said. “That swing right there definitely put me in a better feeling and better comfort zone. It's awesome.”
It was fireworks night at the ballpark Friday, but Eau Claire made sure the fans saw plenty on the field first. For a team that had only hit three long balls all year coming into play today, the Express hit just as many in eight at-bats and two innings, as Drew Turbin hit an opposite field shot in the bottom of the eighth to cut the lead to 4-3, setting up the ninth inning heroics.
St. Cloud got off to a 3-0 lead early, but the Express answered with two in the bottom of the fifth as shortstop Peter Van Gansen had a two-run single to score Mike Barajas and Brent Gibbs.
Andy Davis went seven innings on the mound for the Texas orange and black, earning his third quality start in a row by allowing three runs, two of them coming on solo homers, and three strikeouts while scattering eight hits. Miles Nablo got the win by pitching the eighth and ninth and allowing just one run.
The past two nights, the Express had two big rallies come up short in losses to the Waterloo Bucks. But they learned from those two games to send the fans home happy Friday.
“We’ve got a lot of competitors, a lot of guys who like to battle," Salters said. "We fell short the past couple of nights, but tonight we kept battling and it turned out well.”
Salters finished with three hits, as did centerfielder Brady Burzynski.
Even though it's not a fireworks night at Carson Park Saturday, the Express will try and provide some more as they wrap up the series with the Rox. It is Nike Youth Baseball Glove Giveaway Night sponsored by Mega Co-op. And the attitude after Friday's big win?
“If that doesn’t really fire the team, we don’t know what will," Salters said. "The home runs, the comeback win, hopefully that will carry over. It should."
First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m.