In the first game of a critical series, the Eau Claire Express scored two runs in the bottom of the 12th to defeat the Wisconsin Woodchucks 4-3 tonight at Carson Park.
The Express regain sole possession of first place in the South Division as they improve to 17-8 in the second half. Wisconsin falls 1.5 games back with the loss as it drops to 15-9.
Wisconsin would get one run in the top of the first on a Vicente Cafaro solo home run into the right field Fan Deck. The Express responded in the bottom of the first as Bryce Nimmo (Nebraska) scored on a Tyler Goodro (Butler CC) groundout to tie the game 1-1.
The Woodchucks regained the lead in the top of the fourth when with the bases loaded and nobody out; Eau Claire was called for a balk to plate Brent Weaver. However, that is all Wisconsin got in the inning. Once again, the Express responded in the bottom of the fourth when Nick Wichser (UW-Milwaukee) hit a ground-rule double to left center driving in Ian Hollick (New Mexico) to tie the game 2-2.
The score stayed that way until the top of the 12th inning. Darin Ruf was hit by a pitch to begin the inning. A sacrifice then moved him over to second. An infield single then put runners at the corners. Then with two outs, Nick Nordgren singled through the left side, plating Ruf to give the Woodchucks the 3-2 lead.
With one out in the bottom of the 12th, Jake Jefferies (UC-Davis) singled. Kole Calhoun (Yavapai) followed that with a single to put runners at first and second. Mike LaLuna (New York Tech), who came in the game in the 12th, then singled up the middle to score Jefferies and tie the game 4-4. Hollick then was hit by a pitch to load the bases and with David Cales (Illinois-Chicago) at the plate, Wisconsin would throw a wild pitch as Calhoun came in and scored to give the Express a 4-3 victory.
Cales (2-2) picked up the win on the mound. Eau Claire starter Eddie Gamboa (UC-Davis) pitched well again, striking out 10 in seven innings. The Express also got quality bullpen outings from Ryan Escarcega (New Mexico) and Rodney Wodson (Alabama-Birmingham), who combined to pitch three scoreless innings. Pat Venditte (3-1) picked up the loss for Wisconsin. Jefferies and Nimmo each had two hits for Eau Claire.
The Express and the Woodchucks play game two of a two-game series tomorrow at Carson Park. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.