The Eau Claire Express fell behind early and could never recover as the St. Cloud River Bats took game one of the Northwoods League Championship Series by a score of 4-2 tonight at Joe Faber Field.
The Express will look to keep their championship hopes alive tomorrow night at Carson Park. If the Express can force a game three, that game will also be in Eau Claire.
St. Cloud would get the first run of the series in the bottom of the first. D.J. Belfonte led off with a walk and then stole second with two outs. Jeff Hulett then hit a triple to right center to drive in Belfonte and give the River Bats a 1-0 lead.
The River Bats extended their lead in the bottom of the fifth. Dylan Tonneson began the inning with a single down the right field line. He then advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a groundout. Then with two outs Tim Wheeler hit a RBI single that fell in front of the center fielder to plate Tonneson and make the score 2-0 St. Cloud.
The Express finally got on the scoreboard in the top of the seventh as Jake Jefferies (UC-Davis) hit the first pitch he saw over the right field fence to make the score 2-1. The River Bats got that run back and added another in the bottom of the seventh. St. Cloud loaded the bases with one out. Derek McCallum then hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Adam Yeager. Then Matt Fanelli hit a RBI single up the middle to make the score 4-1.
Eau Claire cut the lead to 4-2 in the top of the eighth. Bryan Frew (Nebraska-Omaha) walked and then Kole Calhoun (Yavapai) singled to move Frew to third. Frew then scored on a wild pitch. However, the Express would leave Calhoun stranded at second. The Express then brought the tying run to the plate with nobody out. However, the Express would groundout, fly out, and then groundout to end the game as St. Cloud took game one 4-2.
Mike LaLuna (New York Tech) picked up the loss for the Express. Buddy Baumann earned the win for the River Bats. Ryan Wrobel picked up the save. The River Bats have beaten the Express six consecutive times dating back to last season.
The series now moves to Carson Park in Eau Claire for game two tomorrow night. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Gates open at 5:30.