Eau Claire, Wis.— Kyle Marinconz carried the Eau Claire Express to a 5-4 walk off victory against the Willmar Stingers on Wednesday night. The Express second baseman went 4-5, driving in four runs while scoring the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a Rudy Rott four pitch walk with the bases loaded.
Dylan Smith had a strong first inning in his debut as a starter for the Express, despite appearing out of the bullpen 21 times for Dale Varsho. Smith used just 10 pitches to complete the 1-2-3 inning.
Daulton Varsho would get the first hit of the game with a looping double into shallow left field, but Arbetier fought back with an inning ending strikeout swinging to preserve the 0-0 score line.
Tyler Smith would break up Dylan Smith’s no-hit bid in the top of the third, hitting a deep solo home run to right field. The Stingers’ third baseman launched a hanging breaking ball with two outs to give Willmar a 1-0 advantage in the third.
Kenny Ogg would inherit two runners in the top of the fifth inning, replacing Dylan Smith, the usual set-up man in the Eau Claire pitching staff. Ogg would hit Danny Pardo with the first pitch he threw, loading the bases for Greg Lambert who leads the Northwoods League in RBI’s. Lambert added to his impressive total with a two-run single through the gap just to the right of shortstop Cody Bohanek, extending Willmar’s lead to 3-0 against the new pitcher. Ogg struck out Justin Toerner looking to end the inning and rebounded by retiring the side in order in the top of the sixth.
Arebetier would exit the game with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, his shut out in jeopardy with Jake Rothwell taking over pitching duties. Up until the seventh, Arbetier had Eau Claire’s number, limiting one of the top offenses in the NWL to just four hits and no runs. The Stingers’ starter struck out six batters in 6.2 innings.
Marinconz would ensure that Arbetier would not complete his shut out, drilling a ball to the gap in right-center, scoring two runs. The two-RBI single would bring the Express within one run of the Stingers, cutting the Willmar lead to 3-2 headed to the eighth.
In his first appearance for the Eau Claire Express, Caleb Willems battled back from a lead off single to retire three straight Stingers for a scoreless eighth.
The Stingers would add an insurance run in the top of the ninth, taking a 4-2 lead to the final frame of Wednesday’s heavy-weight bout. Catcher Travis Wacker and Brandon Perez hit back-to-back doubles to start the inning, Perez’s two-bagger driving pinch-runner Quincy McAffee home.
The Express quickly put two runners on base, with a lead off walk from debut catcher Connor Olson and a single from Cody Bohanek. A Sam Hurt sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position. Marinconz would come in clutch yet again, hitting a two-run double to deep left-center, tying the score at 4-4. Max Green entered the game, throwing two intentional walks of Varsho and McKenna. Rott stepped to the plate against left-handed reliever Max Green, and drew a bases loaded walk on four pitches, clinching the 5-4 Express win.
Willems earned his first win in his Express debut, pitching two innings, allowing one run on three hits. The fireworks, however, came primarily at the plate from the bat of Marinconz. The second baseman went 4-5 in the walk off win, driving in four runs while scoring the game-winning run himself. Marinconz’s two-run double in the bottom of the ninth produced the game tying run, setting up the victory for Eau Claire. Bohanek scored twice in the game, with a multi-hit performance of his own.
Jon Roblez will pitch the opening game of the two-game series against the Waterloo Bucks as the Express hit the road before returning home to Carson Park for the remainder of the season. Roblez will throw his first pitch at 7:05 p.m., looking to hold the Bucks in check and squander their North Division playoff hopes. The right-hander from Alabama State has a 2-0 record in four starts, highlighted by a seven inning no-hitter against St. Cloud in early July. Roblez has been a key cog of the Eau Claire rotation, with a 3.34 ERA in 32.1 innings pitched.
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.