Eau Claire, WI – The Eau Claire Express (7-7) walked off the Thunder Bay Border Cats (3-11) to win 5-4. The 5th straight win for the Express propelled the team to a three-way tie for 1st place in the Great Plains East Division.
Lakeland University Postgame Recap: In the bottom of the 1st inning, the Express began the game’s scoring. Troy Beilsmith (Evansville) and Spencer Myers (Notre Dame) started with two singles. Beilsmith advanced to third base on a Matt Bottcher (Illinois-Chicago) fielder choice. They would come in to score on Phillip Sikes (Pima CC) sacrifice fly to center field. Thunder Bay continued the game by scoring one run in the 2nd inning and one run in the 4th inning to take a 2-1 lead.
Down in the bottom of the 5th, the Express took back the lead by scoring two runs. Brock Burton (Grand Canyon) reached on a two-base error by the Border Cats left fielder, ending up at second base. Burton moved over to third on a wild pitch and scored on an errant throw by Thunder Bay’s catcher. Boone Montgomery (UT-Arlington), who struck out on the play, made it all the way to second base on the error. Montgomery scored later in the inning thanks to a Spencer Myers RBI single and put the Express up 3-2.
Another Express run scored in the bottom of the 7th inning. Montgomery lost and Beilsmith advanced him to second on a single. Montgomery stole third and scored when Bottcher grounded out.
After the Border Cats tied the game 4-4 in the top of the 8th inning, the game had extra innings written all over it. The 9th inning was 3 up, 3 down in both the top and the bottom half.
Tonight was the first night the Express was introduced to the new Northwoods League Extra Inning Rule. Section 10 states that extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. Thunder Bay had the first chance to score, with a runner already in scoring position. However, a huge play by the Express defense quickly eliminated the threat. David LaManna (Notre Dame) fired a throw down to Bottcher at second, who spun around and relayed the ball to Nick Lopez third base. Lopez applied the tag to get the critical out. The next two Border Cats were retired.
Heading to the bottom of the 10th, Troy Beilsmith started on second base for the Express. Myers moved him to third on a fly out to center field, only 90 feet away from the win. In the next at bat, Matt Bottcer walked it off for Eau Claire, slashing a single through the infield. The scoreboard turned to 5-4 in favor of the Express as water and sunflower seeds showered the shortstop in the victory lap around the bases.
Pitching was also very solid for the orange and black. Matt Verdun (Lewis) started on the mound and went deeper than any Express starter has gone this season. The sophomore went to work for 7 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and two walks. Verdun struck out two. Eau Claire native, Jack Brown, entered in relief and went on to throw three innings of one run, one hit ball. Brown struck out three and earned the win.
Eau Claire will now begin a three-day, four game homestand. They start tomorrow morning for a doubleheader in Willmar with an 11:35 am first pitch, followed by a scheduled 7:05 game two. Then they move to Mankato on Wednesday and Thursday before returning home to Carson Park on Friday, June 14th. The Express will be giving away the last prize you will ever need with a prepaid funeral from Evergreen Funeral Home and Crematory! There will also be post game a postgame fireworks show.
The Eau Claire Express are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 25-year old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 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, over 200 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist (CHC) and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET) and Curtis Granderson (MIA). 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.