Hurt’s late home run seals 9-3 victory


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Eau Claire, Wis.— The Express won the opening game of their first series at home against the Thunder Bay Border Cats, 9-3 behind the pitching of Jon Roblez and the bat of Sam Hurt. Hurt drove in five runs, including a key three-run home run in the seventh to provide vital insurance runs late in the game, and Roblez had another quality start to earn his first victory of the season.


The Express took the field at Carson Park for the first time since being crowned first half champions. The team went 4-2 on the road trip, with one game postponed to a later date.


The game started off in spectacular fashion after an early base runner reached safely for the Border Cats. Alex McKenna made a leaping catch in the gap in center field to rob Andy Weber of an extra base hit, and completed a double play by throwing back to first to retire Bobby Honeyman. Jon Roblez sent down Anthony Brocato swinging to end the top of the first.


McKenna showed his impressive versatility in the bottom half of the first, slicing a one-run double down the first base line to give the Express an early lead. The opposite-field hit scored Mickey McDonald who reached on a full count walk, and advanced all star Daulton Varsho, (who also reached on a full count walk), to third. First baseman Jared Mang gave the Express a 2-0 advantage with an RBI groundout. Daniel Herrera tagged Brandon Langan for a third run, lining a one-run single to the gap in right field.


Roblez allowed his first hit in almost 10 innings in the top of the third, but calmly retired the next batter he face to preserve the shut out. Roblez’s last start came against the St. Cloud Rox on July 6th, where he threw a seven-inning no-hitter that resulted in an Eau Claire extra-innings win.


Mang started the bottom of the third with a ringing one-out double to right-center. Erick Migueles joined Mang on the base paths after being hit by a pitch, and the two New Mexico teammates advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch from Langan. Sam Hurt ripped a ground ball past Honeyman at third base, scoring both Mang and Migueles.


Angelo Spedafino took over the pitching duties for Langan in the bottom of the fourth, immediately allowing a lead off triple off the center field fence from the bat of Cody Bohanek. Spedafino rebounded quickly, however, forcing a groundout and a double play to end the fourth unharmed.


Roblez continued to cruise through six innings, and was bailed out twice by his defense to preserve his shut out. The Express turned back-to-back double plays in the fifth and sixth innings, relieving the pressure caused by multiple base runners.


Designated hitter Grant Klenovich ended the shut out with a two-run single over the head of Hurt at second base. Two walks and an error loaded the bases for Klenovich, who sliced Eau Claire’s lead to 5-2. Johnathon Tripp would relieve Roblez following Klenovich’s hit, and promptly struck out Honeyman swinging for the second out of the inning. Weber hit a speedy ground ball at Mang at first base, allowing Gui Gingras to score. The three-run inning put pressure on the Express hitters to add insurance runs late in the game.


The Express would do just that in the bottom of the seventh, adding four runs to push their lead to 9-3headed to the final two frames. Daulton Varsho drew his third full count walk of the game, and would steal second base. Spedafino issued his second walk of the inning to Rott to put two runners on.


On a successful double steal, Michael Papierski attempted to throw Rott out at second, but no Border Cat was covering the bag, causing the ball to sail into the outfield. Varsho crossed the plate on the error, and Rott advanced to third. Hurt continued to be a thorn in Thunder Bay’s side, blasting a three-run home run to the football field in deep left field. Hurt’s bases clearing shot drove in his third, fourth, and fifth runs of the night.


Tripp would remain in the game, getting a 2.2 inning save after retiring three in the ninth. Roblez was credited with the win, allowing two earned runs (one unearned) on four hits and four walks. Roblez struck out four opposing batters in his first win of the summer.


Hurt was the standout offensively for the Express, finishing the game 2-4 with five RBI’s and a run scored, including a three-run home run to put the game out of reach. McKenna and Migueles each had an RBI, and Migueles added a team-high. two runs scored to his stat line.


The Express will complete the brief two-game series against the Border Cats tomorrow night at 6:35 p.m. at Carson Park. Eau Claire will send an All Star to face Thunder Bay tomorrow night in Austin Schulfer. Schulfer is in the top-five of the Northwoods League in two categories: strikeouts with 40, and ERA  (1.81). The right-hander from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee holds a 1-1 overall record in five starts, totaling 34.2 innings pitched. Schulfer will appear on the North Division All Star team under manager Dale Varsho on July 19th in Kenosha, Wisconsin.



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.