The Eau Claire Express and Mankato MoonDogs threw a total of 246 pitches on Fourth of July Friday at Carson Park.
It took just one to make the difference in the game, as a big three-run home run off the bat of Mankato's Eric Schenck-Joblinske gave the MoonDogs an early lead, one they would hold on to win by a score of 6-5 in front of a racous 5,016 fans.
The MoonDogs scored three in the first, but the Express chipped away in the bottom of the inning as Daniel Satlers knocked in Brady Burzynski on a sacrifice fly.
But then, a walk and a bloop single and a golf swing from Schenck-Joblinske just clearing the 302-foot mark in right field gave the MoonDogs a 6-1 lead early.
"It seems like every little base hit falls against us," Field Manager Dale Varsho said. "We just got to get it back and try and get a little luck on our side."
But the Texas orange and black almost did just that. And it was in the name of small ball that almost did the trick.
The Express scored two in the bottom of the fourth as Drew Turbin drove in Salters on an RBI groundout, and then Jack Zoellner scored Tyler Hermann on a sacrifice fly.
In the bottom of the seventh, Peter Van Gansen knocked in Brian Mundell and Jack Zoellner on an RBI single up the middle to make it 6-5. Aggressive baserunning played a big key in all the Express runs, as stolen bases and taking an extra one on balls put in play set guys up in scoring position.
"Any way to get a base easily, we’ll try and get it, and that’s helped us out a lot,” Van Gansen said.
Van Gansen had two more hits Friday, giving him nine in the past three games. He said one thing changed for him at the plate as he made the adjustment from the first half to the second half: joy.
“I just went up there realizing it’s summer, you’re supposed to come have fun here, and that’s helped me a lot,” Van Gansen said.
Eau Claire put two guys on in the bottom of the ninth but failed to score as Mankato closer Tyler Mark got two strikeouts to end the game.
“We gave up six early runs, otherwise we fought back, we played hard," Varsho said.
On the mound, Andy Davis started the game and gave up the six runs, but the story was Peter Hendron.
In four innings, he gave up just one hit, zero runs and struck out three. Taylor Duree threw two scoreless innings to fill the nine innings.
The same two teams square off tomorrow night on St. Patrick's Night at the ballpark. Fans are encouraged to wear green. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. at Carson Park.