Express hold on to one-run lead following rain delay
Eau Claire, Wis.— The Express emerged victorious in Friday night’s rain-drenched game, winning the final match-up of this season against the Thunder Bay Border Cats. Kyle Marinconz had the decisive hit in the sixth inning on a two-run single, that gave Eau Claire a one-run lead heading into a 40-minute rain delay. Kenny Ogg and Christian Tripp shut down Thunder Bay in the final three innings, closing out the 5-4 victory.
Despite persistent drizzles of rain, the game started on schedule, with the first pitch thrown by Michael Gomez at 7:09. Gomez used just eight pitches in the first, sending down the Border Cats in order to start the game.
The wet environment clearly impacted Thunder Bay starter Brandon Woznak’s control, as he allowed the Express to load the bases on a double and two walks. Woznak pitched out of the tough jam with a pop-up to first base and an inning ending double play to second. After issuing two walks in the top of the second, Gomez got a one out double play of his own to preserve the shut out.
The Express loaded the bases for the second straight inning on singles from Rudy Rott and Sam Hurt, and a hit-by-pitch off the shoulder blade of Austin Guzzo. This time, Woznak was not so lucky. A dropped ball in the outfield allowed Rott to cross the plate, preserving the bases loaded with nobody out. Woznak produced his second double play of the game and forced a pop-up to end the inning, with just a 1-0 Eau Claire lead.
Thunder Bay would get their turn with the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, with three straight hitters reaching after being hit by pitches. Third baseman Bobby Fulkerson lined a single up the middle to score two runs and take a lead for the Border Cats, and Ryan Sutterer blasted a double off the top of the fence for an RBI double in the following at bat. As if on cue, the rain came pouring down in the bottom of the fourth, mirroring the new 3-1 score line.
The rain had an immediate impact, as a throwing error scored Hurt all the way from first after his lead off single. Woznak turned yet another double play to end the inning, preserving the narrow one-run lead.
Kenny Ogg took over pitching duties from Gomez in the top of the fifth, getting some quick defensive help when Daulton Varsho gunned down Andy Weber attempting to steal second.
Alex McKenna needed just one swing to tie the game hitting a bomb over the left field fence. McKenna’s seventh home run of the 2016 season was an absolute no-doubter, the right-handed batter pulling the monstrous shot deep into the outfield at Carson Park.
The tie did not last, however, as the Border Cats retook a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth. Jordan Gillerman and Gui Gingras reached on back-to-back singles to start the inning, with a sacrifice bunt moving both runners into scoring position. A Fulkerson ground out drove in the go-ahead run.
The lead would change yet again in the bottom half of the sixth, led by Hurt’s second base hit of the game. Zach Ashford continued a strong night at the plate, drawing a walk with two outs. Kyle Marinconz lined a two-run single through the infield off of reliever DJ DePiero in his pitching debut for the Border Cats. DePiero fanned the final batter of the inning, but not before Eau Claire took a 5-4 lead.
Immediately following the lead change, the umpires convened and decided a rain delay was necessary as the field condition deteriorated After a nearly 40 minute delay, Ogg fired a strike down the middle to signify the beginning of play. Ogg showed no ill-effects following the delay, sending the Border Cats down in order. Ogg replicated the process with a flawless eighth inning.
Christian Tripp came into the game, looking for the save in the one-run contest. Tripp closed out the game with a 1-2-3 inning, earning his 11th save of the season, placing him in the top-five in the Northwoods League.
Marinconz had the game winner for Eau Claire, driving in two runs on a single in the sixth to give the Express their 44th win in 2016. Hurt went an impressive 2-3 in the game, scoring two runs in the game. Cody Bohanek and McKenna each got an RBI in the win. Ogg was credited with the win, allowing only one run on three hits in four innings of work out of the pen, improving his record to 3-1 this season.
Ryan Zimmerman will take the mound in his third start of the 2016 season tomorrow night, with his first pitch scheduled to cross the plate at 6:35 p.m. Since making the move to the rotation, Zimmerman has been excellent, allowing just one run in 13 innings pitched. Zimmerman has an impressive 1.97 ERA in five appearances this summer, most recently beating the Waterloo Bucks on August 7th. Zimmerman has displayed expert control and electric movement, striking out 25 batters in 27.1 total innings, limiting opposing hitters to a .200 batting average.
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.