Eau Claire, Wis.— The Express completed a series sweep of the St. Cloud Rox, taking over first place in the North Division and in the Northwoods Leauge with an 18-8 overall record riding a six-game winning streak. Two home runs propelled the Express offensively, and the pitching staff was able to tame the Rox bats in the 5-2 win.
Brody Rodning had a strong start to his fifth outing of the season, picking up two strikeouts and a ground out to retired the Rox in order in the first. Rodning did not allow a hit through his first three innings, fanning five Rox batters without giving up a run.
Logan Salow allowed two runners on base in the bottom of the first, issuing walks to Cody Bohanek and Daulton Varsho. Both Express base runners advanced on a wild pitch by Salow, putting two runners in scoring position. Daniel Herrera ripped a two-run single through the gap between first and second, giving the Express an early 2-0 lead.
Bohanek would widen the gap to 3-0 in the bottom of the third, blasting a solo home run to left field on the second pitch he saw. Bohanek has been on a tear at the plate as of late, driving in nine runs in the past four games, with two home runs during that time.
The Rox pulled a run back in the top of the fourth, after Ricky Ramirez reached first on a walk, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, and third on a wild pitch. Mark Skonieczny drove in Ramirez with a two-out double to cut the deficit to two runs. Rodning induced a ground ball to end the inning, but not before St. Cloud closed the gap to 3-1 halfway through the fourth.
Ripken Reyes saved a run in the top of the fifth, throwing out Brendan Illies at the plate on a grounder by Ramirez. The Rox, however, were able to put a run on the board on an RBI single by shortstop Drew Freedman to slice the Express lead to one run. Rodning forced a pop fly to center field to end the fifth inning with the bases loaded, stranding three runners.
Kenny Ogg replaced Rodning on the mound in the seventh, his sixth appearance for the Express this summer. Ogg did not allow a hit in the top of the seventh. Despite having one base runner aboard due to a fielding error and another on a walk, Ogg preserved the 3-2 Eau Claire lead. Rodning completed six innings, with one earned run and one unearned run on four hits, adding seven strikeouts to his season total. Ogg would complete his night with a scoreless eighth inning, forcing the Rox into a double play to end the inning.
Varsho hit a deep home run to straight away center field in the bottom of the seventh, scoring Mezzenga who had reached on a fielder’s choice and stole his 14th base of the season. Varsho’s league-leading ninth home run gave the Express a 5-2 lead after seven innings.
Christian Tripp entered the game in the top of the ninth inning, striking out the first batter he faced and forcing a double play to end the game. Tripp earned his second save of the season for his scoreless ninth. Rodning notched his first victory of the season in five starts, and Rox starter Salow was credited with the loss.
Bohanek finished the game 1-3 with two runs scored and an RBI on his second home run of the season. Varsho went 1-1, drawing three walks in addition to his two-run blast in the seventh. Herrera was .500, going 2-2 with two RBI’s in the victory.
The Express will hit the road tomorrow, travelling to Green Bay to take on the Bullfrogs in a two-game series at Joannes Stadium, with the opportunity to make it seven straight wins. Ryan Hamilton takes the mound looking for his third straight victory in his fifth start of the season. In his most recent start, Hamilton pitched six scoreless innings and allowed just four hits in the win. The Express will return home on June 29th for a double-header against the top team in the South Division, Wisconsin-Rapids.
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.