The Eau Claire offense mustered just one run on five hits in Monday night's matchup with the Bucks, giving Express starting pitcher Ethan Nichols little margin for error in his second start of the season.
Nichols would surrender four runs on five singles in the second inning, and was handed the loss after exiting the game in the fifth trailing 4-0. The Air Force Falcon’s four runs allowed (None of which were earned) were the most given up by an Express starting pitcher this season. Which is more of a testament to how fantastic the team’s rotation has been thus far, rather than Nichols’ night on the mound.
Nichols’ teammates on the offensive end simply had no answer for Waterloo’s pitching, striking out (9) nearly as often as they reached base (11). Production at the plate has been the one thing missing for the Express through their first seven contests of the season, as the offense has combined to hit .190 with a .239 SLG as a unit. However, the team should see an uptick in production with this week’s addition of several key bats to the roster, including one of the stars of last summer's squad in Fresno State outfielder Zach Ashford.
Even though they struggled to get anything going at the plate for most of the night, Eau Claire loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, bringing the leading run in Ben Mezzenga to the plate with one out. After reaching base twice before in this one via two walks, the Minnesota outfielder would fail to come through in this spot during his first appearance with the team this season. Taking a pitch on the corner for a called strike three and the second out of the frame.
That would bring first baseman Nic Ready to the plate, but Ready, the man responsible for driving in the only run on the night for the Express in the fifth, would pop up to right field to officially close the door on a potential Eau Claire comeback.
Tomorrow night at 6:35 PM, the Express will try to yank their record back up to .500 after falling to 3-4 with Monday night’s defeat. Lane Ramsey, a 6’8 righty out of Oklahoma will start on the bump for Eau Claire in his first Northwoods League action of the season. The redshirt sophomore only appeared in five games for the Sooners this spring, tossing nine innings with a 9.00 ERA.
On the hill for the Bucks will be Antony Ruden of Clarke University in Iowa. The 6-1 right-hander is coming off a brilliant NWL debut, in which he threw six shutout innings in a Waterloo loss against Duluth.
The Eau Claire Express are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 23-year-old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 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 170 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM). 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 or on Google Play and set the Express as your favorite team.