Rochester, MN- Just one day removed from last night’s brutal loss at the hands of La Crosse, the Express (16-23) felt heartbreak once again on Friday night in Rochester, letting a late lead slip away to fall 10-6 to the Honkers (18-20).
Sitting in the driver’s seat with a 6-4 lead entering the bottom of the eighth inning, Eau Claire allowed Rochester to bring home six runs on just four hits in the frame to grab their first lead of the ball game. Express relievers Josh Gaworski and Jack Wolger combined to walk four batters in the inning, with Gaworski allowing another Honker to reach base via a hit by pitch.
The Express would jump out ahead in the second inning by hanging a three spot on Rochester starter Ryan Thompson (1-3), with one of those runs coming off a solo home run by newcomer Matt Duce, his first hit of the season with Eau Claire.
With the Honkers trailing 3-1 in the fifth, Rochester’s Zach Zubia cranked his Northwoods League pacing 13th homer of the season to tie things up at three a piece. Zubia would end up going reaching base in each of his five at bats on the evening, driving in a game-high four runs to power Rochester's offense as he's done all season long.
Following a top of the seventh that saw Eau Claire pull ahead once more by a score of 6-3, the Honkers would climb within two in the bottom half of the frame to set up the game-changing eighth inning that would end up deciding the outcome of Friday’s contest.
Coming off his shortest start of the season last week in Waterloo, Express starter Ryan Zimmerman (1-2) put together five solid innings of three-run ball against the Honkers in this one. The St. Thomas right-hander worked around eight hits and four issued walks in order to leave his team in a position to win, but wound up taking the no decision as Eau Claire dropped to 1-2 in the second half.
The Express will be back in Rochester tomorrow to face the Honkers for the final time in the regular season. Ohio lefty Gerry Salisbury (2-1) is slated to make the start on the mound for Eau Claire, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM.
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.