Express bats come up short yet again
Eau Claire Express Field Manager Dale Varsho summed up another close loss pretty simply, this one a 4-3 decision to the Rochester Honkers Tuesday at Carson Park.
"They had opportunities, they had timely hits," Varsho said. "We didn't have any timely hits."
It was the 10th time this year Eau Claire lost by two runs or less.
After going down 1-0 early, the Express got three quick runs to take a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth. In the fourth, Mike Barajas had a two-run single to plate Brian Mundell and Drew Turbin. An inning later, Mundell knocked in Tyler Hermann, who scored his 22nd run of the season, which is second best in the Northwoods League.
But after that, Rochester left-hander Will Bamesburger was absolutely lights out for the Honkers. He came in in the bottom of the fifth and didn't allow a run the rest of the game while also striking out five. He only faced one batter over the minimum as the Express bats went silent.
During that time, the Honkers took advantage of a few walks and got three runs in the top of the sixth to take a lead they would never relinquish.
While the offense stalled, the Express defense turned in two sensational plays. In the top of the seventh and the bases loaded, Turbin fielded a ground ball in the hole at second base and flipped it behind his back to shortstop Barjas, who then fired on to first for an inning-ending double play.
In the top of the eigth, Hermann dove for one headed down the third base line and fired the ball from his knees to get the out.
"We made some great defensive plays to stay in the ball game," Varsho said.
In relief of starter Ian Doughty, Eann Cox continued his scoreless streak. He went two innings while striking out two. He even hit 94 MPH on the radar gun. Cox still hasn't allowed a run in 2014, and his streak currently is at 14.1 innings of scoreless ball.
"Eann's been great," Varsho said. "He hasn't given up a run and he's been on fire. He must have some good stuff, because he even gets behind on hitters and still gets people out."
The Express will be challenged mightly as they now look square in the face with a five-game road trip expanding from Mequon to St. Cloud before returning home. They will head to Rochester tomorrow to finish the home and home series with the Honkers before heading to Lakeshore to take on the second-place Chinooks out of the South Division for two. They wrap up the road trip by going to play the high-flying offense of the St. Cloud Rox Saturday and Sunday.
"This road trip is going to be a long one; we play some really good teams," Varsho said. "We got our work cut out for us."
First pitch tomorrow is at 7:05 p.m. at Mayo Field in Rochester.