Eau Claire, WI- Saturday night's contest with Bismarck (7-5) resulted in a 5-2 loss, making this current losing streak (3) the longest of Eau Claire's season thus far. But nonetheless, there were still positive signs to be found in defeat, as the Express (4-8) bats sprung to life for 11 hits while the pitching showed it could avoid letting things get out of hand when an evening goes south early-on.
In case you haven't been following along the past two night's, the Eau Claire pitching staff combined for 23 issued walks over the course of their two most recent games. Dishing out 12 free passes in Rochester before returning to Carson Park for the first night of this two-game series with the Larks just issue another 11.
Tonight, however, the arms appeared to turn over a new leaf, striking out 10 Bismarck hitters while walking just three. If the Express are to turn things around soon, their talented stable of hurlers will have to continue dishing out performances similar to tonight's. A collective outing in which they limited the bases-on-balls while still living in the zone to pile up strikeouts.
Starter, and eventual losing pitcher, Luke Eldred (0-1) pieced together a great outing on the bump after surrendering two runs in the top of the first. The Dallas Baptist freshman allowed three runs and struck out six while walking none, bringing his full-season BB/K rate up to 0/8. For a team that has had issued allowing runners to reach via the walk, Eldred's display should set an example for what a great start should look like.
On the other side of the coin, the team's offense put together a solid night themselves, reaching base 14 times on 11 hits, two walks and a hit batter (That hitter would be centerfielder Zach Gilles, whom exited the game in the first after taking a pitch off his leg). Usually when a team has runners on-base as often as the Express did tonight, it means runs will follow. Yet unfortuatley for the Eau Claire bats, they just couldn't come up with finishing blows to get their men home, coming up with two runs to show for an otherwise productive night at the plate.
Leading the charge for the Express hitters was firstbaseman Rudy Rott, whom went 3-5 with three singles and one run batted in. Rott putting together an outing like this so early after joining the team on Friday is reassuring, as he'll be counted on to be one of Eau Claire's key cogs in the lineup on a nightly basis.
The team will be back at Carson Park tomorrow afternoon for a 5:05 PM bout with the Mankato MoonDogs. Chase Dreger (1-1) will get the nod for the Express on the hill, making his second start of the year. The Colby Community College sophomore lasted five innings in his last start at Willmar, allowing two runs on six hits.
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.