Eau Claire, Wis.— Caleb Boushley pitched a gem on Tuesday night, completing eight innings of shut out baseball to propel the Express to a 4-0 win over the Willmar Stingers. Boushley now sits in a tie for the most wins in the Northwoods League (seven), while lowering his ERA to an impressive 3.21 in nine starts.
Express ace Caleb Boushley started the pursuit of his seventh win perfectly, sending down the powerful Stingers bats in order in the first, including a swinging strikeout of Justin Toerner to end the inning. Boushley ran into trouble in the top of the second after back-to-back singles put runners on the corners with two outs, but a fly ball preserved the scoreless game.
Two doubles opened the scoring for the Express in the bottom half of the second. Rudy Rott hit a deep drive to center field, making it all the way to the base of the fence in the lead off spot. Corey Herndon held Rott on second with two pop flies, but Mickey McDonald laced a double into the right field corner to give Eau Claire an early one run lead.
Boushley continued his dominance on the rubber in 2016 through the fifth inning, allowing just two hits while striking out three batters. Woods would redeem himself for his error in the fifth with a lead off double off the fence in the deepest part of Carson Park to open the sixth inning against Boushley. However, Boushley rebounded with three quick outs, a fly ball, a strikeout, and a ground ball to hold Woods on second and preserve the 3-0 Express advantage.
Herndon gave up a lead off double off the fence in left-center in the bottom of the fifth. Daulton Varsho doubled the Express lead with an RBI opposite field single to shallow left, scoring Bohanek who stood on third following a Sam Hurt sacrifice bunt. Varsho would score the third run of the game to give Eau Claire a 3-0 lead on a line drive by Alex McKenna that resulted in a fielding error for shortstop Dylan Woods.
Herndon would complete the sixth inning, his final inning on the mound for Willmar. The right-hander from Marion, Arkansas allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk, striking out four Eau Claire hitters but was in line for his first loss of the season entering the seventh inning.
Boushley continued to deal in the top of the seventh, inducing a double play ground ball to eliminate the Stingers’ base runner. A pop fly to Jared Mang in right field completed Boushley’s seventh shut out inning.
Hurt drew a four pitch walk against reliever Joe Vranesic in the bottom of the seventh, punishing the new pitcher immediately by advancing to third on a Kyle Marinconz single and later scoring on a McKenna sacrifice fly to center.
Boushley retired the side in the eighth with ease, forcing two groundouts and a fly out to complete his eighth shut out inning. Boushley’s clinic on the mound put him in line for his seventh win, which would tie him atop the Northwoods League.
Christian Tripp was tasked with preserving the win for Eau Claire in a non-save situation. With one out, a Willmar runner reached first on a fielding error, but Tripp induced a grounder (as he does so frequently), allowing Marinconz to tag second and hit Rott at first to end the game.
Boushley was the obvious choice for player of the game in his longest start of the season, earning his fourth shut out win of the season, allowing only four hits in the dominant win. Varsho paced the Express offense with a hit, a run scored, and an RBI. McDonald, Rott, and Marinconz each had multi-hit games on Tuesday night.
Eau Claire will complete the season series with the Stingers tomorrow night at 6:35 p.m. at Carson Park. Dylan Smith will make his first start of the season in Wednesday’s contest after primarily serving as a closer and set up reliever for the Express this season. Smith has appeared in 21 games out of the bullpen, and has been a key member of the Express late-game staff. Smith’s unique side-arm motion has resulted in 32 strikeouts in 25.2 innings, holding a 2-1 overall record to go along with his four saves.
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.