Eau Claire, Wis.— The Express completed a two-game sweep of the Thunder Bay Border Cats with a 7-2 victory Friday night. A five-run inning in the top of the eighth mirrored last night’s box score, breaking a tie to improve Eau Claire’s record to 16-8 this season.
Cody Bohanek did not disappoint after being named the Northwoods League Player of the Night last night, hitting a two-run home run in the top of the third. Bohanek’s first home run of the year came on a high fastball from Brandon Langan, blasting the pitch over the fence in deep left-center field. The home run scored Ripken Reyes, who had reached on the previous at bat with a fielder’s choice. The deep drive gave the Express an early 2-0 lead, breaking up the scoreless tie along with Langan’s no-hitter.
Thunder Bay got on the board in the bottom of the fourth on a dropped fly ball by Zach Ashford in left field. The Border Cats threatened with two runners on and no outs after two walks issued by Austin Schulfer. Schulfer looked strong, however, retiring two batters with a ground out and a strikeout. The inning appeared to be closed out on a fly ball to left field, but Ashford lost the ball in the strong Thunder Bay sun, scoring one run. Schulfer struck out the final batter in the inning, his third of the ball game, to maintain a one run lead after four innings.
Schulfer stranded a lead off runner in the bottom of the fifth with his fourth strikeout of the game. Gui Gingras had a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, but Schulfer shut down the next two hitters he faced, pounding the strikeout with spectacular control to preserve the 2-1 lead.
Apart from the two-run home run, Langan had a strong start for the Border Cats. He completed six innings on the mound, allowing only two hits and two runs in the start with four strikeouts. Ben Hoffman relieved Langan on the mound and continued the pitching staff’s strong performance, striking out the side in the seventh inning.
Schulfer completed his sixth and final inning of work with two strikeouts and a ground out, his third quality start of the season. He finished the outing with just one unearned run on two hits while fanning six batters, placing him at second in the league with 31 strikeouts on the season.
Mitch Bigras sparked a rally against Bryce Hensley, who relieved Schulfer on the rubber, following the seventh inning stretch. Bigras advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on an RBI single by Gingras ripped down the first base line, leveling the score at 2-2 after seven innings at Tbaytel Park.
The Express tagged Hoffman for five runs in the top of the eighth, taking a 7-2 lead into the bottom of the inning. Ashford reached safely on a single to shallow right, and Eau Claire loaded the bases on two bunts, a fielder’s choice off the bat of Reyes and a bunt single by Bohanek.
Kyle Marinconz drew an RBI walk, giving the Express a one run lead. Daulton Varsho hit a fly ball to center field, which was caught by the Border Cats’ fielder, however his throw home was off allowing Reyes to score on a throwing error. Austin Guzzo capitalized on the second bases loaded situation of the inning, blasting a three-RBI double to clear the bases and give the Express a five-run lead in a five-run inning, the second night where the Express broke a tie with an offensive outburst.
Hensley closed out the game with two shut out innings to seal the sweep of the Border Cats. Hensley was awarded his second win of the season for his three innings pitched, finishing the game with two runs allowed on six hits. Bohanek capped off his impressive series at the plate with a 3-5 game, including two RBI’s and two runs. Guzzo’s clutch hit in the eighth to give the Express necessary insurance in the win.
The Express return to Carson Park for a two game home stand against the division-leading St. Cloud Rox, who have won nine straight games heading into Friday night’s game. Caleb Boushley will look to continue his strong season on the mound and earn his third victory against the top hitting team in the Northwoods League, with first pitch scheduled at 6:35.
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, 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 portal. For more information, visit www.eauclaireexpress.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store and set the Express as your favorite team.