David LaManna did his college mascot proud on Tuesday.
Fortune smiled on the Eau Claire Express catcher, who plays college baseball at Notre Dame. Hitting with the bases loaded and the game tied at one in the fourth inning, the Fighting Irish backstop lofted a softly-hit fly ball to shallow right field.
The blooper hooked just inside the foul line for a double, allowing every Eau Claire baserunner to score and break the game open with a 4-1 lead.
Good placement, or the luck of the Irish?
“It was just a seeing-eye ball,” LaManna said. “It was a good pitch, and I was able to get the bat on it. I just got a little lucky honestly. That’s baseball though.”
Either way, it helped Eau Claire claim a 6-1 win over Mankato at Carson Park, giving the Express their third win in the last four games.
LaManna wasn’t the only Notre Dame product who had a big game either. Fighting Irish teammate Spencer Myers went 2-for-3 and drove in a run as part of a well-rounded game for Eau Claire.
Eight of the team’s nine starters reached base at least once, and they bashed eight hits as a squad. It was an overnight improvement after the offense struggled on Monday.
“We’re just putting together good at-bats now. We’re able to foul balls off and drive balls the other way,” LaManna said. “(Monday) we probably did the same thing as far as hitting-wise, but the ball just didn’t fall for us.”
LaManna finished with a pair of hits on the evening.
Pitching was strong for the Express too. After some early control issues, starter Justin Revels went six strong innings and allowed just one run on two hits. Chippewa Falls native Trevor Olson pitched three scoreless frames to close out the victory.
A strong outing from the bullpen was a good sign one day after it had lost them their previous game. Olson set down the first eight batters he faced.
“It felt really good. We’ve had confidence in our bullpen the whole year. (Monday) wasn’t out best outing, but we know we’ve got a really good bullpen,” Olson said. “To go 1-2-3, 1-2-3 (in the seventh and eighth innings) was really good to see and kind of shows we’re back in our game.”
The Express (17-25, 4-3 second half) set the tone early, loading the bases with three straight singles to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Nick Brueser gave Eau Claire a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly to center field.
A fielder’s choice in the top of the third allowed Mankato (25-18, 4-3 second half) to tie the game at one run apiece, as Eau Claire first baseman Brueser sent a high throw to second base on a double play attempt that shortstop Garrett Gouldsmith did well to handle to get an out.
The MoonDogs scored a run before they tallied their first hit of the game, which came in the fourth inning. Walks were the culprit for Revels – he issued five through the first three frames. After that, he settled in and shut down the Mankato lineup, which finished with just three hits.
“He’s just really a competitor out there,” LaManna said of Revels, his battery mate. “If he gets down, he’s going to start pounding the zone. His stuff was pretty good tonight, honestly. He was just missing a little arm-side early, but he’s going to compete every single night you give him the ball.”
LaManna’s three-run double gave Eau Claire breathing room in the fourth, and the Express added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
Eau Claire North grad Adam LaRock had a 1-for-3 day at the plate with a walk for the hometown team.
The Express close out their homestand with another game against Mankato tonight.