Eau Claire, Wis.— The Express dropped their second straight game with a 6-3 loss at the hands of the Rochester Honkers on Thursday night. On a game delayed by excessive rainfall in the second inning, a late Honkers’ home run gave Rochester a victory to set Eau Claire’s overall record to 20-11. This was the first time the Honkers defeated the Express this season in five games so far this season.
The Honkers capitalized on an opportunity to score in the bottom of the first inning, with the first two runners reaching base safely. Alex Fitchett hit a single at the top of the order and Drew Ellis was hit by a pitch in his fourth consecutive game. Schulfer forced Rochester into a double play, but Joey Czarske jumped on a 1-1 pitch, lining a single up the middle to score Fitchett from third to give Rochester an early 1-0 advantage.
Casey Worden extend the first inning lead to three runs with a two-run home run to left field off of Express starter Austin Schulfer with two-outs. Worden has hit four home runs in just nine games, displaying power at the plate with his second home run against Eau Claire this season.
The rain came in swiftly in the top of the second inning, forcing the umpires to call for a weather delay at the midway point of the inning. The game restarted at 8:10p.m. following the brief 35 minute delay. Schulfer returned to the mound after play resumed, sending down the Honkers in order while striking out two batters.
Mickey McDonald reached first on a two-out walk and stole second base to put the Express in a threatening position. Ben Mezzenga dropped a looping single in shallow left field to score McDonald and cut the Rochester lead to 3-1, on Mezzenga’s eighth RBI on the year.
Express first baseman Rudy Rott leveled the game with one swing of the bat in the top of the fifth. Alex McKenna hit a single and stole two bases, continuing his hot start to his season for Eau Claire. Rott stepped up and pulled a two-run blast over the fence in right field off of reliever Sam Bjorngjeld to tie the score at three runs a piece after four and a half innings at Mayo Field. It was Rott’s first home run of the season, displaying the power he showed this season at Ohio University.
Bjorngjeld pitched out of a tough jam in the top of the seventh, with the Express threatening to overtake the lead late in the ball game. Daulton Varsho drew a walk and advanced to third, and Kyle Marinconz was hit by a pitch in the helmet to put runners on the corners. Bjorgjeld calmly struck out two batters to end the inning unharmed with the tie game preserved.
Johnathon Tripp replaced Schulfer on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, but would allow a three run home run in the inning to give the Honkers a 6-3 lead heading to the final two frames. Kyle Kasser and Fitchett each hit singles, putting two runners aboard for Drew Ellis. Ellis hammered a no-doubter to left field, scoring three runs and breaking the stalemate.
Bryce Hensley pitched for Eau Claire in the ninth, retiring the Honkers in order to allow one last opportunity for the Express to rally and either tie the game or take the lead. Hunter Van Horn dashed Eau Claire’s come back hopes, earning a save in the 6-3 win.
Rott had a strong night at the plate, hitting his first home run of the season in the fifth inning. Varsho was the only Express player that had multiple hits, but his offense was not enough to combat Worden’s seventh inning home run.
The Express will return to action tomorrow night against Rochester at Carson Park, completing the home-home series with first pitch scheduled at 7:05p.m. Brody Rodning is Friday’s probable pitcher entering the game off of his first win against the St. Cloud Rox on June 26th. The victory was Rodning’s best performance of the year, as he struck out seven batters while allowing only one earned run in six innings for Eau Claire. The sophomore from Minnesota State Mankato will look to carry over his upward trajectory on the mound to tomorrow night’s contest against the struggling Honkers.
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.