Friday night's game between the Eau Claire Express and Rochester Honkers turned out to be a like a boxing match as both teams matched one another blow for blow.
But in the end, it was the heavyweight of the Northwoods League North Division, the first-place Express.
After scoring a run in the top of the 10th and an answer from Rochester in the bottom of the inning, Eau Claire delivered the knockout punch with two runs in the top of the 11th for a 6-4 win to stay in first place in the second half standings.
But it wouldn't be easy.
The Honkers scored two right away in the second inning on a two-run home run by LJ Brewster. They scored again in the next inning to make it 3-0.
But the North's hottest team fought back with the long ball Friday night. In the top of the fifth, Jeff Hendrix launched his team-leading fourth home run of the season to make it 3-1. After Brent Gibbs singled a batter later, Jack Zoellner connected for a game-tying two-run shot of his own.
The game would go scoreless until the 10th inning, when All-Star Daniel Salters stepped up to the plate. On an 0-1 pitch, the Dallas Baptist catcher launched a solo home run of his own, his third of the year, to give the Express a one-run lead.
But the Honkers threw one final punch in the bottom of the inning off Express closer Eric Gleese. WIth two outs, the Honkers got an RBI single to tie the game at 4-4.
The orange and black picked up its closer in a big way. Hendrix scored a wild pitch in the top of the 11th, and in the same at-bat, Brady Burzynski delivered the final swing with an RBI single to score Zoellner.
With the bases loaded and only one out in the bottom of the 11th, Gleese rang the bell with two straight strikeouts to end the ballgame. He earned the win on the mound. Brett Seeburger went four innings in his first start while Orlando Meza went five scoreless innings in relief.
The Express close out the pre-All-Star break schedule with two consecutive doubleheaders in Willmar. One is a continuation of the suspended contest on June 14. First pitch for that contest is set for 4:05 p.m. tomorrow in Willmar. That will be a full nine innings while game two, which will start approximatley 30 minutes after, will be a seven inning affair.