Virtual Game Day Program
Eau Claire, Wis.— The Express defeated the Rochester Honkers 5-2 at Carson Park in a low-scoring contest on Saturday night. Starter Jameson Lavery earned his first victory of the season with six innings of one-run baseball, with Dylan Smith slamming the door shut in the ninth for his fourth save. Mickey McDonald and Daulton Varsho each tallied two RBI’s in the emphatic win.
The Honkers quickly got two runners aboard in the first inning, with a lead off single by Kyle Kasser. Ryan Fitzpatrick was hit by pitch, but Express starter Jameson Lavery recovered with a fly out and a swinging strikeout to end the inning without damage done to the score line.
The Express looked strong in the first inning, with three hits but no score to show for it. Cody Bohanek and Mickey McDonald reached on lead off singles, but were both thrown out trying to steal second. Daulton Varsho dropped a double into the gap in left-center with two-outs, but Honkers’ pitcher David Worrell turned one final out to end a scoreless inning.
Rochester would prove the first inning was not a fluke, scoring a run on three hits to gain an early 1-0 lead. Back-to-back one out singles put runners on the corner for Josh Hauser, who sliced an RBI single to right field in his first at bat for Rochester.
Lavery would pitch three scoreless innings, holding the Express within one run of the Honkers in the top of the fifth. The UW-La Crosse pitcher struck out one batter, and forced an inning ending double play in the fifth to eliminate the Honkers scoring threat.
The Express cracked the score board in the bottom half of the fifth following lead off singles by Sam Hurt and Ripken Reyes. The two runners advanced into scoring position on a Worrell wild pitch. Bohanek hit a deep fly ball to center field that had enough carry to allow Hurt to tag up and score the first run of the game. McDonald took the lead for Eau Claire, roping a single to shallow right field. Varsho added to the lead with an RBI single of his own, scoring the speedy McDonald all the way from first base to extend the lead to 3-1 heading to the six.
Lavery allowed a one-out hit to Josh Davis in the top of the sixth, but quickly retired the side on two pop outs to Alex McKenna in center field to put himself in a position to earn his first win of the season.
Ryan Hamilton would take over on the mound in the top of the seventh. Lavery pitched six innings, allowing just one earned run on seven hits. He displayed dominant control, walking just one of the 24 batters he faced, while tallying two strikeouts. Hamilton struck out the lead off hitter in his first relief appearance of the year. However, Hamilton would run into trouble when Honkers’ catcher Brett Harrison drew a full count walk and later scored on a bloop single to shallow left-center, slicing the Express lead in half at the seventh inning stretch.
The Express loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh on two hits and a fielder’s choice. Hurt and Bohanek each reached on infield singles (Bohanek on a bunt single), and Reyes put ducks on the pond when his sacrifice bunt was thrown into center field by reliever Brett Herber. McDonald got his second RBI of the game on a ground ball fielder’s choice to second base. Varsho kept pace with McDonald, driving in his second run of the game as Reyes tagged up from third base on a sacrifice fly to deep center field.
With two added runs of support, Hamilton sent down the Honkers in order to preserve the 5-2 score line with just one more chance to level the score for Rochester.
Dylan Smith, the side-arm hurler from Weatherford College, entered the game in the top of the ninth with a chance to capture his fourth save of the year. Smith struck out two batters, holding the Honkers scoreless to seal Eau Claire’s 36th win of the season and Lavery’s first victory as a starter.
Varsho was the leading man offensively for Eau Claire, finishing the game 2-3 from the plate with two RBI’s. McDonald was also key in the win, driving in two runs on a 2-4 hitting performance. Bohanek reached every time he came to the plate, with two hits, one RBI, and a walk in the game.
Eau Claire will square off against Rochester for the final time this season tomorrow afternoon in a 1:05 p.m. matinee at Mayo Field, looking to get the sweep away from Carson Park. Michael Gomez will get the call, starting his seventh game of the season. Gomez currently holds a 1-2 record with a 5.72 ERA in 22 innings pitched. The right-hander from Cal Poly has 13 strikeouts and 13 walks this summer, dropping his most recent start in a two-inning start where he allowed two quick earned runs. Gomez hopes to rebound to his strong from on display in his July 14th win over La Crosse where he gave up just five hits in six innings.
The Eau Claire Express have won the Northwoods League North Division and have earned a trip to the playoffs for the first time since winning the Northwoods League Championship in 2010. They will host a playoff game at Carson Park on Monday August 15th 6:35pm. Group and individual game tickets are on sale now! Season tickets and single-game tickets for the regular season are also 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.