Eau Claire, Wis.—The Eau Claire Express dropped to 12-8 on the season with a 9-4 loss against the Mankato MoonDogs. After mounting a three run comeback in the bottom of the fifth, the MoonDogs retook the lead in a three-run top of the sixth, and would preserve the victory with strong relief pitching.
The MoonDogs put up a run in the top of the first after a lead off double by Jake Shepski, who holds the highest average in the Northwoods League. David Metzgar continued his hot hitting series against the Express with an RBI single right over the first base bag.
Metzgar and Shepski combined again to punish Express starter Brody Rodning in the top of the third. With two outs, Shepski lined a single to left field, and rounded the bases on a home run off the bat of Metzgar. The two-run shot over the wall in left field was Metzgar’s first home run this season in 16 at bats, giving the MoonDogs a 3-0 lead after the top half of the third.
The Express scored a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. Singles by Cody Bohanek and Ben Mezzzenga put an Eau Claire runner on third base with two outs. Daulton Varsho produced at the plate, hitting a ground ball single through a gap in the infield for an RBI to cut the Mankato lead to two runs.
The first three Mankato hitters reached base in the top of the fifth highlighted by a Metzgar single, his third hit in three at bats. Marcus Pingleton tallied his first RBI of the game on a sacrifice fly on the warning track in left field. Rodning rebounded however, forcing a pop out and a ground out to hold the MoonDogs to one run. Mankato held a 4-1 lead heading to the bottom of the fifth.
The heart of the Express lineup came up big against Mankato starter Reese Eddins, scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game.Varsho added his second RBI of the evening on an identical ground ball up past two diving infielders to cut the deficit to two. Jones followed up with an RBI single of his own, scoring Mickey McDonald from second. Eddins' wild pitch made it to the backstop, after a walk to reload the bases, scoring Varsho to level the score at 4-4.
The tie did not last long, as Shepski hit into a fielder’s choice with one out and the bases loaded to score Drew Fearing, giving the MoonDogs a 5-4 lead. Metzgar extended the Mankato lead to two runs with his fourth RBI of the game on a single to shallow right field. Designated hitter Jordan Kozicky drew a walk, scoring Shepski for the third time in the game.
Mankato added two insurance runs in the top of the eighth, on a throwing error by McDonald at third base and a sacrifice fly from Kozicky. Kevin Yarabinec and Cooper Powell combined for four shut out innings of relief, eliminating Eau Claire’s rally efforts. Eddins earned the victory, completing five innings with four earned runs. Jake Sommers was the losing pitcher for the Express.
Varsho was the offensive standout for the Express, tallying two RBI’s, a run scored, and two hits in four at bats. Mezzenga added another run scored to his impressive season total (17), as well as a stolen base in the 9-4 loss.
The Express will have their first day off in nearly a month on Monday, before returning to Carson Park for a single game against the Rochester Honkers at 6:35p.m. Tuesday. Ryan Hamilton will take the mound after earning his first win of three starts in his last outing, hoping to position the Express back in the win column after the season sweep at the hands of the MoonDogs.
Season tickets and single-game tickets are on sale now for Express home games. 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.