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Published On: June 29th, 2016

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Eau Claire, Wis.— Ben Mezzenga’s two-run home run in the fourth inning lifted the Express to a 5-3 victory over the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters in the first game of Wednesday’s double-header. The Express clinched their 20th win of the season in starter Chase Beal’s first victory of the season on the mound for Eau Claire.


The Rafters jumped on Beal early, loading the bases with no outs in the top of the first. Demetrius Sims reached on a single, and advanced to third on a Jake Lumley double. Patrick Cromwell drew a walk to put Beal in a tough jam on the mound. Beal pitched out of the inning, forcing a line out and a 4-6-3 double play to keep Wisconsin Rapids off the board early.


After the early threat, it was the Express who tallied the first run in the game. Alex McKenna ripped an RBI single down the third base line to score Mezzenga, who reached safely on a lead off walk from Dylan File. The single gave McKenna his third RBI in just two games, continuing his strong first impression for the Express.


Scott Kapers hit a lead off infield single, and advanced to second on a throwing error on the play at first. Kapers would cross home plate on Lumley’s slicing hit that landed about three feet in fair ball territory, breaking up Beal’s shut out in the third. Lumley would round the bases himself on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch to give the Rafters a 2-1 lead heading to the bottom of the third inning.


The Express responded quickly, rallying behind Zach Ashfords lead off double to the corner in left field. Ashford advanced to third on a Daulton Varsho grounder, then scored on McKenna’s second RBI of the game, a slow rolling grounder to shortstop Sims that was enough to bring home the runner.


The tie, however, did not last long, as Logan Mattix hit a solo home run on the first pitch he saw in the following half inning. Mattix has shown promising power at the plate through the first half of the season, hitting six home runs and driving in 14 runs so far this summer.  


The back and forth continued in the bottom of the fourth inning with the Express leveling the game at 3-3. Mickey McDonald hit a single in the lead off position, and scampered to third on Rudy Rott’s second hit of the game. Kyle Marinconz would hit a ground ball to Sims at shortstop, but the Rafters were only able to turn one out, allowing McDonald to score.


Mezzenga gave the Express a two-run lead just one at bat later. Cody Bohanek reached second base on a throwing error with two outs, keeping the inning alive for Mezzenga. The freshman from the University of Minnesota pulled a two-run home run into the fan deck in left field, his second long shot of the season.


The pitching staff for the Express pitched three scoreless innings to close out the victory, holding Wisconsin Rapids to one hit in the final three innings. Bryce Hensley struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh inning, relieving Beal on the mound. Hensley pitched out of a bases loaded situation in the top of the eighth to hold the Rafters scoreless from a threatening position.


Dylan Smith entered the game in the top of the ninth, hitting lead off pinch hitter, Brandon Polizzi. Smith rebounded, striking out the next two batters he faced before walking Lumley to put runners on first and second. Smith clinched the final out of the game on his third strikeout, giving him 20 strikeouts in 12.1 innings pitched on the season. Smith picked up his third save of the season, taking over the team lead in that category this summer.


Mezzenga finished his player of the game performance 1-2 with two RBI’s and two runs scored, highlighted by his fourth inning home run, which proved the difference in the win. Rott was 2-3 with two singles, and McKenna had his second consecutive two RBI game. Beal notched his first win of the season in his first start, completing six innings on the mound while allowing two earned runs with two strikeouts.


The Express will complete today’s double-header against Wisconsin Rapids tonight at 7:05p.m, looking for the series sweep against the top team in the South Division. Michael Gomez will start for the Express, hoping to earn his second win of the season in two starts. In his first start, he pitched four shut out innings to defeat the Thunder Bay Border Cats.


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 or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store and set the Express as your favorite team.