It’s opening week in Wisconsin in the Northwoods League presented by Edvest
Eau Claire, Wis.— The Express fell to 3-2 on the season with a 7-4 loss against the Willmar Stingers Saturday night. Early errors ended up being the difference maker in the game where the Express, led by Mickey McDonald, put up a valiant effort to dig out of an early 4-0 hole.
The Stingers’ hitters, with the help of some defensive gaffes by the Express, jumped on starter Jake Sommers early, putting up four runs in the top of the first inning. Quincy McAfee led off the game with a single, and advanced to third on a stolen base and an error on the throw-out attempt. Danny Pardo reached first on a walk, and Greg Lambert hit a grounder that was fumbled by Cal Klipstein-Smith to score McAfee.
A walk to Jack Schmidt loaded the bases for Travis Wacker, who calmly sliced a single to short right field, driving in one run. In his first appearance of the season, Kole Cottam drove in another run on a single, and Brian Moore sacrifice fly to deep center extended the lead to 4-0 after the top of the first.
The Express managed to get one run back in the bottom of the first, when Tyler Jones hit a single to drive in Daulton Varsho, who walked, stole a base, and got to third on a throwing error by Wacker.
After playing in three games as a right fielder, Johnathon Tripp entered his first game as a pitcher in black and orange with two outs in the second. He forced Cottam to ground out to Ripken Reyes at third base to get out of a jam with runners on the corners. Tripp did not allow a run, finishing with 2.1 innings pitched with one strike out in an impressive first outing.
Base running was key for the Express again in the third, when McDonald stole second base after his lead off single. He made it home on Daniel Herrera’s two out liner in front of the right fielder to cut the Stingers’ lead to 4-2 after three at Carson Park. McDonald was at the heart of another run in the bottom of the fourth, when he drove Smith home from second. His two-out single cut the Stingers lead to just one run heading into the fifth.
Another Express pitcher made his debut on the mound in relief. Kenny Ogg, freshman from Ohio University, set the Stingers down in order in his first inning as a member of the Express.
Ogg later found himself in a tough situation with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh. Cottam capitalized on the opportunity, hitting a single to score two Stingers’ runners. Another run crossed the plate for Willmar when Moore grounded out, pushing the lead to 7-3.
Varsho added to his league-leading home run total in the seventh with a lead off solo shot into the parking lot in right-center to cut the deficit to three runs. The home run, however, did not rejuvenate the offense. The comeback fell just short, with the final score reading 7-4 in favor of the Stingers.
McDonald was a bright spot for the Express offensively, finishing 2-5 with an RBI, a run, and a stolen base. Varsho went 2-4 with two runs and an RBI on his fourth home run of the season.
Ty Tice pitched five complete innings allowing two earned runs, while striking out nine Express hitters. Josh Mill picked up a four-inning save allowing only one run to help prevent an Express rally.
The Express will take on the Stingers tomorrow at 5:05pm in the final game of the North Division series. Caleb Boushley, who is coming off a dominant year at UW-La Crosse, will take the mound in his first season in the Northwoods League as the Express look to even the four-game series.
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Season tickets, 5-Game Packs, and single-game tickets are on sale now for Express home games. The all-new 5-Game Pack includes a reserved ticket along with food and beverage for three innings for five of the biggest promotional nights of the 2016 season all for only $45.00. All tickets can be purchased by calling the Express office at 715-839-7788 or by stopping at the downtown office at 102 E. Grand Ave.
The Eau Claire Express are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 23rd season of summer collegiate baseball in 2016, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 150 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (CHC). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League Website. For more information, visit www.eauclaireexpress.com.