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Published On: August 12th, 2016


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Eau Claire, Wis.—The Eau Claire Express could not quite complete the comeback in Thursday night's 3-2 loss at the hands of the Thunder Bay Border Cats. An early home run fueled the Border Cats offense, but nine Express singles produced two runs to tie the game in the third. The decisive run came in the fourth inning, and the Border Cats closed out the win behind impressive relief pitching. The two teams will square off for the final time this season tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m.


For the second straight night, Eau Claire gave up an early lead to the visiting team. After retiring the lead off man, starter Jameson Lavery issued a four pitch walk to Andy Weber. The following at bat, Anthony Brocato launched a deep drive to left field, clearing the outfield fence at Carson Park for a two-run home run. Kyle Marinconz gloved a sharp grounder up the middle, turning a double play to end the inning with a 2-0 advantage to Thunder Bay.


Three singles put the Express on the score sheet in the bottom half of the first. Marinconz proved his versatility with a line drive single over the outstretched glove of Weber at shortstop for Eau Claire’s first base hit. Marinconz was joined on base by Alex McKenna, and would score on a one-run single from Mickey McDonald to slice the Thunder Bay lead in half.


The Express would load the bases on a walk and singles by Sam Hurt and Marinconz, but Patrick Boyle (Border Cats starting pitcher) induced a non-threatening grounder to leave three runners stranded in the second.


McKenna would threaten to score again in the third following a lead off single to shallow left field. McKenna would advance to third on an errant pick off throw, and crossed the plate with ease on a Rudy Rott RBI single to level the score at two runs apiece.


The tie game would not last long, however, with the Border Cats loading the bases on two singles and a walk in the top of the fourth. Weber dropped a squeeze bunt down the first base line, which Lavery grabbed but his toss to the plate was not in time, giving Thunder Bay its second lead of the night. A 4-6-3 double play limited the damage to one run in the inning.


Coming off an appearance in the Northwoods League Major League Dreams Showcase, Jake Sommers took the mound in the top of the sixth. Sommers allowed a base hit to Bobby Honeyman, but an excellent defensive play by Connor Olson behind the plate ended the inning as Olson gunned down Honeyman trying to steal second on a wild pitch. Lavery would exit the game in line for the loss, with three runs allowed on eight hits and three strikeouts. The Border Cats also looked to their bullpen in the sixth inning, as Dan McBryan took over pitching duties with one out in the inning. McBryan pitched a clean inning, retiring the two batters he faced on nine pitches.


Sommers and McBryan continued to battle through the eighth inning, neither reliever allowing a run. Both pitchers walked one opposing batter, but McBryan did not give up a hit in 2.2 innings of work, while Sommers allowed a harmless single back in the sixth. Sommers would take the hill again in the ninth, capping off a 1-2-3 top of the ninth with a swinging strikeout.


McBryan toed the mound, tasked with holding the one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. Marinconz kept the game alive with a two-out single up the middle, putting the winning run at the plate. McBryan fanned Daulton Varsho to end the game, closing out his first save of the season.


Marinconz was the leader offensively for the Express, finishing the game 3-5 from the plate with one run scored. Rott and McDonald drove in the lone runs of the game in the first third of the game, but the offense stalemated, unable to produce the tying run following the fourth. Sommers was dominant in relief, pitching four innings of one hit baseball.


Michael Gomez will start in the season finale against the Thunder Bay Border Cats tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. Gomez has been a key member of field manager Dale Varsho’s pitching rotation this season, currently possessing a 1-3 overall record with a 4.78 ERA. This will be Gomez’s ninth start of the summer, pitching 32 innings with 18 strikeouts late in the 2016 season. The Cal Poly sophomore will hope to defeat the struggling Border Cats and force a series split with a quality start to (likely) close out his 2016 campaign.


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 or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store and set the Express as your favorite team.