Courtesy: Eau Claire Express.com
The 2013 Express season started off with a bang, but only because of the thunder that helped close out the game in the seventh inning. The thunder, lightning and downpour made for a rain soaked 4-2 loss in Madison to the Mallards.
With rough weather threatening from the third inning on, the Express and Madison made it through six and a half official innings before lightning and rain stopped play and allowed the Mallards to take the opening night win.
Madison started quickly against Express starter Will Kenny from Iowa Central. The left-hander only gave up two hits through five innings, but he walked six and hit three batters. Madison loaded the bases in the first but Kenny got out of trouble by getting Eric Cheray to fly out to center.
Kenny didn't get as lucky in the bottom of the second, as he hit Mallards catcher Mike Fitzgerald to lead it off, walked Jeff Zahn, and after Fitzgerald advanced to third, Michael Handel knocked him in with an RBI groundout for a 1-0 Madison advantage.
Kenny faced the minimum in the third and was helped by a double play started by Express shortstop Blake Schmit. The Express couldn't get the bats going against Penn State lefty Greg Welsh though, and that allowed Madison to add in the bottom of the fourth. An error and three walks aided the Mallards, as they scored twice more to take a 3-0 lead.
The Express bats woke up in the fifth with two outs when left-handed hitting Ryan Gerber, from St. Thomas, blasted a solo shot over the left-center field fence to make it 3-1. Eau Claire then got to Welsh in the sixth as well after Kenny kept it clean in the bottom half of the fourth. Maryland product Charlie White reached on an error by the Madison shortstop and got to second on a Schmit groundout. After a passed ball got White 90 feet away from home, UW-Milwaukee second baseman Mike Porcaro roped a single down the left field line to cut the Express deficit to a run.
That's the closest Eau Claire would get though, as Jake Peterson, who came in to relief Kenny, gave up an unearned run in the bottom half of the sixth.
Eau Claire faces Madison at 7:05 p.m. tomorrow to try and take one game before heading to Battle Creek on Friday evening.