Eau Claire, Wis.— The Express defeated the Duluth Huskies 10-2 at Carson Park on Monday night behind Caleb Boushley’s league-best eighth win of the season. The Eau Claire offense caught fire in the fourth inning and stayed hot through the remainder of the dominant win. Daulton Varsho hit his 14th home run of the year in the seventh, reaching base in all five at bats. Austin Guzzo also had an excellent game, hitting 3-4 with two RBI’s and a run scored.
Caleb Boushley started Monday night’s game the way he so frequently does, sending down the three Huskies he faced in order, while hitting the corner with a full count fastball to strikeout his first batter of the night.
The Express got on the board early in the game, giving Boushley an early run to work with as he looked for his Northwoods League best eighth win of the season. Daulton Varsho drew a two-out walk, advanced to third on a bloop single into shallow left, and scored on a Rudy Rott RBI single up the middle. Varsho’s run gave the Express a 1-0 lead after one inning of play. Boushley capitalized on the run support with a 1-2-3 second inning including a second strikeout.
Austin Guzzo added a one-run single of his own in the bottom of the fourth to double Eau Claire’s lead. Rott got his second base hit, a lead off walk, and was joined by Mickey McDonald who drew a full count walk. Sam Hurt placed a perfect sacrifice bunt down the first base line to score McDonald and give the Express a 3-0 advantage against Duluth starter Riley Gates. A Zach Ashford single to left field scored Guzzo and Bohanek, who added a single in the hit parade. A Varsho single loaded the bases and forced a Duluth pitching change, bringing in David Kroger to limit the damage in the fourth. Kroger allowed an Alex McKenna fielder’s choice that scored the sixth and final run of the inning.
Two singles and an error loaded the bases for the Huskies in the top half of the fifth, looking to claw back in the seemingly out of reach ball game. Boushley recorded the second out of the inning on a fly ball to center field, but the fly was deep enough to score the tagging Duluth shortstop, Brendan McClary, to put the Huskies on the board. A second fly ball to McKenna in center ended the inning with the score line reading 6-1 in favor of the Express.
Joe Gonrowski took over on the rubber for Boushley in the top of the sixth, capping a 1-2-3- inning with a swinging strikeout. Boushley left the game in line for his eighth win this summer, which would be the best in the NWL so far this year. Gonrowski would pitch just one inning, as Caleb Willems replaced the left-hander on the mound in the seventh. Errors would damage the inning as McClary scampered across the plate on an RBI groundout from Daniel Amaral following two fielding errors to cut the Express lead to 6-2 heading to the seventh inning stretch.
Varsho would quickly get the run back in the bottom half of the seventh, hitting his 14th home run of the season over the scoreboard in dead center at Carson Park. The solo shot ties Varsho for most career home runs for an Express player, and ties the catcher for the most in the league this year. Guzzo and Rott paired up again in the inning, each player tallying his third hit of the game. Rott got on base with a one-out single, and scored from second on a sharply hit grounder through the infield by Guzzo to extend Eau Claire’s lead to 8-2.
Huskies reliever Matt Hanson walked the first three batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth, giving Eau Claire the opportunity to expand its already substantial lead. Varsho hit a soft grounder through the gap in the right side of the infield to score two runs to put the Express into double digits. Hanson produced a double play to end the inning, but gifted Eau Claire a 10-2 lead heading to the final frame.
Primary Express closer Christian Tripp pitched a scoreless top of the ninth in a non-save situation to preserve the 10-2 win. Tripp’s flawless half inning gave Boushley his NWL best eighth win of the year, allowing just one run (unearned) on four hits and just one walk. The Express did not allow an earned run in the game, with errors producing the only scoring base runners.
The offense was extremely productive in Monday night’s win, led by Varsho’s back-to-back Player of the Game performances. Varsho hit his 14th home run of the game in the seventh, capping off a 3-3 night from the plate where the UW-Milwaukee product drove in three runs. Guzzo was a standout offensively as well, finishing the win 3-4 with two RBI’s and a run scored.
The Express will have their final game off tomorrow for the Northwoods League Major League Dreams Showcase in Madison. Eight Express players will participate in the game, where MLB scouts will fill the bleachers to watch drills and attend the 4:35 p.m. game. Varsho and Guzzo, tonight’s standouts, will be joined in the field by Mickey McDonald, Kyle Marinconz, Bohanek, McKenna and pitchers Brody Rodning, Jake Sommers in tomorrow afternoon’s Showcase.
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.