Eau Claire, Wis.— Daulton Varsho’s record setting three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth gave the Express a lead they would hold for the remainder of the 4-2 victory over the Waterloo Bucks. Varsho has hit 13 homers this year, the second best in the Northwoods League and a new franchise record for the Express.
The Bucks picked up where they left off last night, tagging Express starter Ryan Zimmerman with one early run in the top of the first. Lane Milligan hit a one-out triple and crossed the plate on a one-run double off the bat of designated hitter Tyler Curtis.
The Express responded with a run in the bottom of the first to knot the game at 1-1 against Bucks starter Jonathan Buckley. Kyle Marinconz ripped a one-out single and was joined on the bases by Daulton Varsho, who drew a full count walk. Alex McKenna capitalized with a runner in scoring position, lining a sharp single into right-center to drive in Marinconz.
Zimmerman got some support defensively in the top of the second on a spectacular diving grab at the foul line by right fielder Varsho. The righty from the University of St. Thomas took matters into his own hands in the top of the third, striking out two batters swinging with two runners on, stranding the threatening Bucks on base with a fly ball to center for the final out of the inning. Zimmerman gave up a one-out single in the top of the fourth, but struck out the next two batters he faced to preserve the 1-1 score line.
Hunter Spencer came into the game for Waterloo in the bottom of the fifth, looking to match-up favorably against the Express lefty heavy line-up. The tactical move back fired as Varsho crushed a three-run home run over the right field fence to give Eau Claire its first lead of the game. Varsho’s 13th homer of the year (a new Express single season record) scored Zach Ashford and Marinconz, who stood aboard on back-to-back singles.
Zimmerman completed the seventh inning with a scoreless frame, bouncing back from his early run to shut out the Bucks for five innings. Kenny Ogg would take over pitching duties in the top of the seventh, looking to keep Zimmerman as the pitcher of record in the game as he looked for his second win of the year. Ogg needed just seven pitches to send the Bucks down 1-2-3 in an excellent inning of relief.
Waterloo pulled one run back in the top of the eighth on Adam McGinnis’s solo home run to right field. McGinnis, one of the top power hitters in the Northwoods League, slapped a deep line drive to the opposite field that allowed Western Illinois product to round the bases for the 12th time this season. Two strikeouts and a groundout limited the damage to one run, with the Express taking a 4-2 lead to the ninth inning.
Christian Tripp entered the game in the ninth looking for his 10th save of the year. Tripp allowed a runner into scoring position with a deep double by Luke Barry off the wall in right-center, but proceeded to strikeout pinch hitter Zach Fricke and force a ground out for out number three to slam the door with the scoreboard reading 4-2.
Varsho’s fifth-inning blast proved to be the difference in the game, giving Eau Claire a lead they would cling onto for the final four innings. The home run gave Varsho three RBI’s and a run scored, accounting for three quarters of the offensive production for his uncle Dale Varsho’s squad. Marinconz and McKenna each tallied two singles, with Marinconz crossing the plate twice in the game. Zimmerman was credited with his second win in two starts, allowing only one run in 13 innings pitched as a starter for Eau Claire.
Eau Claire’s ace Caleb Boushley will start tomorrow’s series opener against the Duluth Huskies, looking for his league-best eighth win of 2016. Boushley has been dominant on the rubber for Eau Claire this summer, with a 7-2 overall record that ties him for first place in the Northwoods League for most wins. The right-hander from UW-La Crosse has a 3.21 ERA, 45 strikeouts, and just six walks in 56 innings pitched, proving himself all year as one of the top pitching talents in the NWL. His most recent start came on August 2nd against the Willmar Stingers, an eight-inning shut out where he held the North Division Playoff hopefuls to just four hits and did not issue a single walk.
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.