Latest News

Published On: July 6th, 2016

Box Score

Eau Claire, Wis.— The Express broke their six-year playoff drought on Tuesday night, prevailing 8-3 in a must-win game against the La Crosse Loggers to win the North Division in the first half of the season. By possessing the top record in the division through 36 games, the Express clinch an automatic postseason berth in August.


The game took over five and half hours, with a nearly three-hour rain delay holding fans in nervous anticipation, hoping for an Express win to seal their first appearance since the 2010 Northwoods League Champions squad.


Three runs in the seventh inning gave the Express a lead following the delay, which the team would hold onto through the ninth inning. manager Dale Varsho’s 401st win would seal a postseason future for the team with the best record in the Northwoods League through 36 games.


The Express struck early against the Loggers, scoring two runs in the first inning off of Mark Nowaczewski.  Ben Mezzenga hit an opposite field to lead off the game, advancing to second on a Zach Ashford ground out to put the University of Minnesota freshman in a threatening position. Daulton Varsho tallied his 34th RBI on a single to score Mezzenga. Varsho stole second base, advanced to third on an Alex McKenna single, and scored on a Rudy Rott sacrifice fly.


The Loggers responded with a solo home run in the bottom of the first, cutting the deficit to just one-run in the essential must-win game for Eau Claire. Griffin Conine, who was drafted by the Miami Marlins in 2015, belted his sixth home run of the season off of an Austin Schulfer fastball.


The Express would quickly reclaim on a two-run lead in the second inning. Mickey McDonald hit a chopper up the middle, reaching safely on an infield single. McDonald would score the third run of the game for Eau Claire when Cullen Large overthrew the Loggers’ first baseman.


Conine would get his second hit of the ball game with two-outs in the bottom of the third, and Large followed with an infield single to put two runners on base. Schulfer struck out Justin Wylie on a full count slider to end the inning without any damage being done to the Express lead.


La Crosse loaded the bases for Conine in the fourth, looking to take the lead on an extra base hit. Luis Trevino was hit by a Schulfer pitch to start a two-out rally for the Loggers. First baseman Randy Labaut lined a single to center field, and Mason McCoy put a runner on each base for one of the hottest hitters in the Northwoods League. Schulfer came up with another clutch strikeout, fanning Conine on another full count striker.


Eau Claire loaded the bases with no outs without recording a hit in the top of the sixth. Rott was hit by a pitch and Austin Guzzo drew a walk against Nowaczewski. Kyle Marinconz reached safely on a fielder’s choice, where the Loggers were able to throw Rott out for a force out at third base. Nowaczewski struck out McDonald and induced a double play to end the inning without allowing a run to cross the plate.


Two RBI singles leveled the score at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning. Johnathon Tripp entered the game for Schulfer, walking Labaut with one out. With two outs, Conine laced a ground ball single up the middle of the infield to advance Labaut to third. Large hit a one-run single, scoring Labaut to reduce the gap to one run. Grant Fennell followed up with an RBI-single of his own to tie the game with three innings of play remaining.


A flash of lightning was spotted by the umpires in the distance following the sixth inning, forcing an obligatory 30-minute delay. The rain came down in sheets shortly after, with whipping winds that delayed the game until 11:55 p.m., a two hour and forty minute delay before play resumed. The stadium nearly emptied completely in the pause, despite the playoff implications in the game.


During the delay, the St. Cloud Rox won 10-4 over the Rockford Rivets, meaning that Eau Claire needed a win to clinch the first half title and an automatic playoff spot.


Eau Claire scored immediately when play resumed, retaking a 4-3 lead with a playoff spot on the line. Mezzenga led off the inning with a walk, and advanced to third on a stolen bases and a sacrifice fly. McKenna ripped a single to score the go-ahead run, and later scored himself on a Zach Kesterson wild pitch.


Kenny Ogg took the rubber in the bottom of the seventh inning, retiring the Loggers in order. Ogg struck out one hitter, turned one ground ball, and forced a lineout to preserve the lead. The Ohio University freshman pitched a scoreless eighth, providing an opportunity for Eau Claire to seal its postseason fate.


The Express continued to extend their lead in the top of the eighth, adding a run of insurance with strong motivation for a postseason berth fueling the team past midnight. Ashford hit a looping single to deep left field to score Bohanek, who reached after being hit by a pitch. Mezzenga scored his second run of the season on a double steal, and Ashford slid into home safely on a wild pitch, giving Eau Claire an 8-3 lead late in the game.


Christian Tripp closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning. Ogg earned the victory in the game, his second win of the season, where he has primarily appearing out of the bullpen for Dale Varsho. McKenna had the game-winning RBI single in the seventh inning, finishing the game 2-5 with one run scored.


The Express will kick off the second half of the Northwoods League regular season with a game against the second place St. Cloud Rox. The two teams did battle against the Rox for the past week in an attempt to clinch an automatic playoff bid in the first half of the season with the Express ultimately prevailing. Jon Roblez will hope to have a strong start on the mound to limit the potent Rox offense to give the Express an opportunity to defeat the team who pushed Eau Claire into a must-win situation in tonight’s game.




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.