Marinconz leads late offensive outburst in 15-3 win
Eau Claire, Wis.— The Express tallied 22 hits against the Duluth Huskies, winning the first game of the North Division series 15-3 and securing their seventh straight win. Kyle Marinconz was 5-6 in the game, with two doubles and three singles on a night where the Express scored 13 runs in the final two innings.
Austin Bernard got the first hit of the game on Express starter Brody Rodning, a double driven deep to right field with one out. Bernard would score on a wild pitch to the backstop, giving the Huskies an early 1-0 lead as they attempted to end Eau Claire’s winning streak at six games.
As they so often have done this year, the Express were able to respond to the offensive production of Duluth with a run of their own, tying the game at one run apiece. Eau Claire loaded the bases with a fielding error, a single by Kyle Marinconz, and a walk, giving Ben Mezzenga the opportunity to drive home a handful of runs in the top of the second. Mezzenga drew a walk to score Mickey McDonald from third.
Marinconz laced his second hit of the game over the head of the diving Duluth right fielder for a lead off double in the fourth. An RBI single from Cody Bohanek gave the Express their first lead of the night. Corey Gaconi limited the damage by turning a double play to end the inning, with the score 2-1 in favor of Eau Claire. Gaconi would end a second consecutive inning with a double play in the fifth inning, eliminating the threat of Alex McKenna’s one-out single.
McDonald and Marinconz led off the inning with back-to-back singles, and advanced into scoring position on a Daniel Herrera sacrifice bunt. The jam forced a Duluth pitching change, as Ian Schwickert replaced Gaconi. Bohanek drove in both runners on a one-out single, giving the Express a 4-1 advantage. Bohanek crossed the plate on a one-run single off Zach Ashford’s bat. Mezzenga, who reached on bunt single, utilized his speed to score on a Schwickert wild pitch. The bats stayed hot in the inning, with McKenna blasting a two-out double to deep left-center to extend the lead to 7-1.
Marinconz and McDonald provided a solid 1-2 punch again in the top of the seventh, reaching on identical plate appearances to the previous inning. Daniel Herrera got his first hit to load the bases on reliever Jesse Fruge with no outs. Bohanek continued his hot night at the plate with a two-RBI double, scoring Marinconz and McDonald for the second straight inning. Ashford tallied his second RBI in two innings with a one-run single to score Herrera.
Varsho kept the hit parade going with an RBI single of his own, giving the Express a double-digit lead. McDonald reached base for the third straight at bat with a one-run single into shallow right field. Marinconz hit his third double of the night to drive in yet another run for the Express, improving to 5-5 on the night. The Huskies finally forced a pop-up to end the inning, but not before the North Division first half champions were able to score seven runs in the seventh inning.
The Huskies finally scored a second run on Rodning in the bottom of the seventh inning, with the game looking out of reach. Casey Moses drove in a run on a grounder with the bases loaded, scoring Reid Long who had a lead off single. Pinch hitter Dillon Paulson added a second run in the inning with a sacrifice fly to left center field.
Kenny Ogg replaced Rodning on the mound to get the final out in the seventh, forcing a groundout to Bohanek at shortstop to hold the Huskies to just two runs in the inning. Rodning pitched 6.2 innings for the Express, allowing three runs on seven hits with two strikeouts. Rodning left the game with a 14-3 lead, in line for his second win of the season.
The Express scored the final run of the game on a pop-up single by Herrera that dropped between three Huskies, scoring Rudy Rott who reached on a hit-by-pitch. The hit gave Herrera his second RBI of the night on two hits.
Marinconz led the dominant Express offense with a 5-6 performance at the plate, scoring three runs and driving in one. Bohanek capitalized several times with runners in scoring position, with five RBI’s, two runs scored, and three hits in the blow out victory. Rodning cruised to his second victory on the mound, with Ogg retiring every batter he faced in 2.1 innings of work to preserve the double-digit lead.
The Express will complete the two-game series with a 6:35 p.m. game tomorrow night as Eau Claire looks to complete the sweep against the Duluth Huskies at Wade Stadium. Ryan Hamilton will start for the Express, looking to repeat the best performance of his Express career last week. In his last start on July 3rd, Hamilton threw a six-inning shut out in a key game in pursuing the North Division title for the first half of the season. Hamilton is 3-3 this year on the rubber, with a 4.50 ERA in six starts this season.
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.