It turns out the safe haven of Carson Park was all the Eau Claire Express needed to get their first win of the season. After giving up 19 runs to lose their first two games the Express earned a 4-1 victory over the Duluth Huskies Thursday night in their 2015 Home Opener.
Griffin Jax started the game for Eau Claire and went a strong 7 innings allowing just the 1 run on 6 hits and 5 strikeouts. The arm of Jax kept them in the game but a 3 run 8th inning rally was the difference maker for the Express.
“Timely hits are always a plus and that’s what we did.” Said Austin Listi, whose broken bat 2 RBI single highlighted the 8th inning. “We found an excuse to score some runs and we did it.”
The rally was started when Nathan Kruse led off the 8th inning with a sharp single past the third base line. He advanced to second after a sacrifice bunt from Brady Burzynski. After a hit by pitch and a walk, the Huskies summoned Austin Carpenter from the bullpen to face Listi with the game tied 1-1 and the bases loaded.
Carpenter threw his second pitch into the dirt that allowed Kruse to score on the past ball and give the Express the lead. With the score now 2-1, Listi found himself in a hitters count and couldn’t waste it.
“I knew we needed the runs,” said Listi. “Most guys don’t swing 3-0 but I’m a pretty aggressive hitter. I looked at coach Varsho and gave him a little head nod, see if I had the green light, he gave it back, so I was all cylinders to hit.”
He blooped a single over the right side of the infield to score 2 more and put the game out of reach in the team's final at bat.
Left hander Teddy Cillis entered the game in the top of the 8th and pitched two scoreless innings to close it out for the Express and earned the win. Listi finished 2-3 with a walk and 2 RBI.
A total of 1916 fans made their way to Carson Park for Opening Night, and Listi said it was good to send them home with a thrilling win.
“They come out to watch the games so we always want to do well for them so they enjoy their time here,” said Listi. “It feels great you know to have such great fan support.”
Game 2 against Duluth is scheduled for tonight. First pitch will be at 7:05 at Carson Park