In Thursday night's Northwoods League season opener, the Eau Claire Express had the Mallards down to their final strike, but Madison delivered with a game tying double and then won the game in the bottom of the 10th by a final score of 2-1 at Warner Park.
The Express had won their previous two season openers, until the Mallards victory tonight. Eau Claire drops to 7-5 all-time in extra inning games and have lost their last three extra sessions. Eau Claire is 6-11 all-time against the Mallards.
Madison had the first scoring opportunity in the bottom of the first when Express right fielder Kole Calhoun (Yavapai) caught a foul ball and then with the relay from first baseman Joe Bonfe (Creighton) threw out Chris Roberts at the plate.
Both teams threatened in the middle part of the game, but both pitchers stood strong and kept the game scoreless. The Express had another big defensive play from Calhoun in the bottom of the seventh when he made a diving grab with two outs and a runner at third to keep the score 0-0.
The Express finally broke through in the top of the eighth as Bonfe led off the inning with a double to right field. Mike LaLuna (New York Tech) then hit a base hit to left, but Bonfe was thrown out at the plate. Eau Claire native Mickey Fadness (UW-Oshkosh) then hit a single to center that scored LaLuna from second to give the Express a 1-0 lead.
Andy Yushta (UW-Parkside) would come in and try to seal the deal on the mound. After getting out of the eighth, Yushta got the first batter in the ninth. Bobby Hubbard then reached on a double down the right field line. After strikeout, Yushta had two strikes on Mitch Saum until he doubled to right center to tie the game at 1-1 and send the game to extra innings.
After the Express went down in order in the top of the 10th, Jordan Comadena led off the bottom half of the inning with a single. Back-to-back errors by the Express on sacrifice attempts loaded the bases. Then a wild pitch scored Comadena as the Mallards won 2-1.
Andy Yushta (0-1) picked up the loss for the Express. The Express starter Wes Simmons (Nebraska) received a no decision, but pitched well going seven innings, allowing six hits, and striking out three. Scott Heitshusen earned the win for the Mallards. The Express had seven hits and were led by Tyler Goodro (Butler CC) who went 2-for-4.
Eau Claire and Madison will play the second game of a two-game series tomorrow at Warner Park. Action begins at 7:05 p.m.
Eau Claire Express