Everything was set up perfectly. The Willmar Stingers and Waterloo Bucks, two teams ahead of the Eau Claire Express in the second half standings, lost already. Clinging to a four-run lead headed to the bottom of the ninth at Wisconsin Rapids, Eau Claire was three outs away from being only a half game back of first.
But the Rafters had other ideas, scoring five runs in the inning to stun the orange and black by a score of 8-7 in Game One of what will be three outcomes between the two teams Wednesday.
Eau Claire got on the board first as Peter Van Gansen extended his road on-base streak to 23 games by singling in Drew Turbin.
After Wisconsin Rapids took a 2-1 lead, the Express scored four unanswered runs. Brady Burzynski scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Brian Mundell in the fifth, and Eau Claire exploded in the sixth.
Turbin led off the inning with a home run, Alex Call scored on an RBI fielder's choice from Jack Zoellner and Zoellner scored on Van Gansen's second RBI single of the ballgame.
Eau Claire tacked on two more runs as Call singled in Turbin in the seventh while Jeff Hendrix knocked in Van Gansen on a single in the eighth.
But the Express bullpen couldn't hold on to give Orlando Meza, who went six innings while giving up three runs, a victory.
The Rafters got a bases-clearing, game-tying double from Clark Eagan, and he scored on a passed ball to give the Rafters an improbable come-from-behind win.
The two teams come back to Carson Park tonight for a unique structure. Because the two teams couldn't finish the afternoon session of the same format doubleheader on June 30 at Carson Park, they will resume play when the curfew struck. Brian Mundell will be up the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth and the Express clinging to a 6-5 lead. After that suspended game gets over, there will be a 30-minute break before the Rafters and Express play the regularly scheduled nine-inning contest. First pitch for the suspended game will be tonight at 7:05 p.m.