Box Score 1 | Box Score 2 | Virtual Guide
Eau Claire, WI- Entering the day two games behind the Stingers (13-7 Second Half, 31-25) in the second half North Division standings, Eau Claire (13-7 Second Half, 28-28 Overall) took both rounds of a day-night duel ticket with Willmar on Wednesday to create a two-way second half tie atop the divisional leaderboard.
Coming off their fifth straight victory, the Express sought out to stay hot upon returning to Carson Park for the first time in four days.
In his first start with the Express this season, southpaw Manny Castellano (Univ. of the Cumberlands) (1-0) tossed five solid innings of one-run ball in a 13-7 Eau Claire win. Castellano allowed just six hits and struck out five on his way to earning his first official win of the year.
While Castellano’s performance obviously played a major role in the outcome, the story of game one was the show of force by the Express bats.
Taking advantage of 18 walks issued by the Stingers pitchers, the Eau Claire offense piled up 12 hits, including four doubles, for one of their best collective showings of the season. Every hitter in the Express lineup reached base at least once, with center fielder Zach Gilles (Central Michigan) leading the charge with two hits and four walks.
Left fielder Zach Ashford (Fresno State) and second baseman Luke Bandy (Dallas Baptist) drove in three runs apiece, on a combined 4-8 showing at the dish.
The offense may have been the focal point of the matinee, but elite pitching stole the show in the nightcap, as starter Luke Eldred (Dallas Baptist) (3-2) hurled his second complete game of the season. A 4-0 shutout of Willmar that will go down as one of the most dominant outings we’ve seen from any member of the Express pitching staff in 2017.
With some fantastic defensive play behind him, Eldred needed juts over 100 pitches to silence the Stingers, allowing just four Willmar hitters to reach base on the night. The freshman struck out only two, but refused to concede anything resembling solid contact over his nine brilliant frames of work.
While the offensive production was no where near as prolific as it was in game one, the Express hitters got the job done in game two, giving Eldred a four-run cushion on 11 hits and four walks.
First baseman Kyle Marinconz (Cal Poly) opened the scoring in the first with an RBI-single, and went on to have arguably the best game of anyone in the lineup, ending up with a 3-4 day after singling twice more.
In his 2017 Express debut, second baseman Josh Norlin (Dallas Baptist) went 2-3 with a double, an RBI and a run scored while playing solid defense at the keystone position.
Eau Claire will be back at Carson Park tomorrow at 6:35 PM for a Thursday night showdown with the Waterloo Bucks (8-12 Second Half, 32-24 Overall).
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 180 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.