The Eau Claire Express won their fifth consecutive game tonight and their seventh straight at home with an 8-5 victory over the Waterloo Bucks at Carson Park.
The Express improve to 6-1 in the second half and 23-18 overall. Eau Claire is in a three-way tie for first with Green Bay and Wisconsin, who lost its first second half game tonight. Waterloo drops to 3-4 in the second half and 18-23 overall.
There would be plenty of runs scored early on tonight. In the top of the first with a runner on first, Waterloo’s Brent Milleville hit two-run home run off of the light tower in left field to make the score 2-0 Bucks. The Express responded in the bottom of the first. With one out, Bryan Frew (Nebraska-Omaha) walked. Then Kole Calhoun (Yavapai) doubled to left center, to put runners at second and third. Tyler Goodro (Butler CC) followed that with a double of his own to drive in Frew and Calhoun and tie the score 2-2. After a wild pitch, Pat Colwell (San Diego State) knocked in Goodro to make the score 3-2.
With one out in the second, Waterloo’s Brandon Bantz hit a solo home run, also to left field to tie the contest at 3-3. The Express came back and matched their first inning run total scoring three more runs in the second. Mike LaLuna (New York Tech) and Jonathan Merritt (Alabama-Birmingham) began with back-to-back singles. An infield single by Frew scored LaLuna to give the Express a 4-3 lead. Merritt then scored on a Calhoun fielder’s choice. Calhoun capped off the scoring when he came across the plate on a double steal attempt to give the Express a 6-3 lead.
The Bucks got one run back in the top of the third, when Aaron Jarosh scored on an Express error to cut the Eau Claire lead to 6-4. Waterloo then threatened in the top of the fifth. With one out, the Bucks got two consecutive singles and a walk to load the bases. Express starter Tim Huber (Nebraska-Omaha) then struck out the next batter to make it two outs. He then induced a groundball to the shortstop to retire the side.
Eau Claire took advantage of Waterloo’s inability to capitalize in the bottom of the fifth. Colwell led off the inning with a single. Joe Bonfe (Creighton) then walked to put runners at first and second. Merritt then singled to load the bases. Bryce Nimmo (Nebraska) then came up and ripped a double that hit off the bottom of the right center field fence to score both Colwell and Bonfe to make the score 8-4.
Waterloo made things interesting in the ninth. The Bucks got one run on a Danny Reed RBI single to cut the Express lead to 8-5. Then with nobody out and the tying run at the plate, Bryce Nimmo would make a spectacular diving grab in center field. David Cales (Illinois-Chicago) then struck out the next batter and got the final batter to fly out as the Express won 8-5.
Tim Huber (7-1) picked up the win for the Express. Cales earned his third save of the season, pitching three effective innings. Brenden Stines (2-3) picks up the loss for Waterloo. Colwell went 3-for-4 at the dish with a RBI and a run scored to lead Eau Claire at the plate.
The Express finish their home stand tomorrow when they face Waterloo for the second game of a two-game series. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Carson Park.