Eau Claire, Wis.— The Express dropped the series opener to the Waterloo Bucks 5-1 after losing a first inning lead to their North Division foes at Riverfront Stadium in Waterloo, Iowa. An RBI double from Jared Mang looked to be a promising start for the Express, but a strong performance by the Bucks’ pitching staff preserved a lead, blanking Eau Claire in the final eight innings.
The game was delayed from the start, with constant rain since the early morning causing a weather postponement. First pitch was scheduled for 3:35 p.m., but play did not commence until 5:15 p.m. after the torrential downpours passed at Riverfront Stadium.
The Express wasted no time in following the stoppage of play, taking an early 1-0 lead against Bucks starter Patrick Boyle. Daulton Varsho sparked a two-out rally with a single and a stolen base, and was joined on the bases by Alex McKenna who drew a walk. Jared Mang lined a one-run double to left field, scoring the speedy Varsho from second.
The Bucks would reclaim the lead in the bottom of the third. Zach Weatherford reached on a leadoff grounder that forced a throwing error by Express second baseman Sam Hurt, and Brody Weiss put runners in scoring position with a double. Matt Morrow hit a hard grounder to Rudy Rott at first, scoring Weatherford to tie the game. Attempting to force a tight play at the plate, Rott ended up overthrowing his catcher, allowing a second run to cross the plate to give Waterloo its first lead of the game. The Bucks added a third run on a more conventional play with two outs, as Robert Neustrom ripped an RBI single up the middle to give Waterloo a 3-1 lead after three innings of play.
Weiss would tally his second extra-base hit of the game with a deep drive over the fence in left-center field. Weiss’s two-run home run drove in Weatherford, who kept the inning alive with a two-out single against Express starter Ryan Hamilton. The long shot was Weiss’s first home run of the season, giving the Bucks a 5-1 advantage with four innings in the books at Riverfront Stadium.
Nate Spielvogel came into the game for Boyle on the rubber in the top of the sixth for Waterloo. Boyle allowed just one run on five hits and four walks, striking out three batters all in the top of the fifth with the Express threatening to mount a comeback. Spielvogel turned a double play with two Express players on base to preserve the four-run lead.
Hamilton exited the game after seven innings on the mound. Only two of the five runs in the game were earned runs for Hamilton, allowing nine hits while striking out two opposing batters. Erick Migueles came into the game in the eighth, his first appearance as a pitcher for the Express. Migueles has appeared in nine games as a batter, batting .115 with a home run and four RBI’s. The right-hander from New Mexico struck out his first batter in his Express career to end the eighth without allowing a run.
Brandon Downey, the best closer in the Northwoods League, allowed one non-threatening hit and slammed the door to seal the 5-1 win. Hamilton was credited with his fourth loss of the season in Eau Claire’s second straight loss.
Mang drove in the lone run for the Express back in the first inning on an RBI double. Varsho and Daniel Herrera were the lone Express batters with multiple hits in a game where the Bucks’ pitching staff was locked-in after an early run by Eau Claire.
The Express will continue their series against the Waterloo Bucks tomorrow night with a 7:05 p.m. North Division All-Star Austin Schulfer will get the start for Eau Claire, seeking his second win of the season. Schulfer leads the Express with 40 strikeouts in just 34.2 innings pitched, displaying elite control and showcasing an impressive slider that has baffled Northwoods League hitters.
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.