With just nine games remaining in the first half of the regular season, the Lakeshore Chinooks came to play Monday refreshed after their first off day. Unfortunately left their bats on the bus in a 6-2 loss at Eau Claire.
Starter Eric Hanhold (University of Florida) was strong out of the gate holding the Express out of the hit column until the fifth inning. On the other side, Eau Claire starter Ed Brandsema was superb as well, throwing six innings while allowing just two Lakeshore hits.
The Chinooks got on the board first in the fourth by putting the first two runners on base. After Brant Valach (Eastern Illinois University) sacrificed both men into scoring position, John Norwood (Vanderbilt University) picked up an RBI on a ground out to shortstop scoring Forrest Chadwick (University of Southern Maine) to give Lakeshore the 1-0 lead.
Hanhold was cruising along until the seventh when Greg Harisis let off the inning with a home run to tie the score at 1. The next two batters reached base on a hit by pitch and a single. The Express loaded the bases on the second hit batsmen of the inning with only one down.
Reliever Donnie Hissa (University of Notre Dame) was brought on to stop the bleeding but the next two batters came through with seeing eye singles, plating two runs to give Eau Claire a 3-1 lead after seven.
Eau Claire came back with more of the same in the eighth inning, this time off reliever Adam Meyer (University of Arkansas). The Express sent eight men to the plate, scoring three times to extend the lead to five.
Eau Claire held Lakeshore to just three hits through the first eight innings and former Chinook Tyler Sparger came on to close it out.
Forrest Chadwick led off the inning with a single but was erased on a double play ground ball. Brant Valach kept the inning alive with a two-out single and he touched home on a ringing double from John Norwood to trim the lead to 6-2 but Sparger got Mikel Mucha (Wichita State University) on a grounder back to him to end the game.
The loss moves Lakeshore one half game behind La Crosse for first place in the Northwoods League southern division. After one more game Wednesday in Eau Claire the Loggers and Chinooks will face off in a two game series Thursday and Friday. With just eight games remaining in the first half, the winner of those two contests will be in the driver’s seat for the first half division crown.