Thursday, July 19, 2018

Sports

Northwoods League: Express take step back in loss to Mankato

Five errors spell quick end of the night for Eau Claire

A day after being shut down at the plate, the Mankato MoonDogs vented some frustration on Wednesday night.

The MoonDogs clubbed 12 hits in a 10-3 win over the Eau Claire Express at Carson Park, salvaging a series split. The Express hurt themselves with five errors, and couldn’t keep up with Mankato at the plate.

Mankato improved on Tuesday’s one-run, three-hit loss in a big way up and down its lineup. On the other side of things, Eau Claire struggled to get to Mankato starter Adam Lukas for the most part. The right-hander struck out seven in five innings of work and allowed two runs on two hits.

“Their pitcher is a stud,” Express manager Dale Varsho said. “They threw some really good players against us, and we still banged out seven hits and three runs. In the Northwoods League, that competes. Unfortunately, we had seven walks and five errors. You can’t compete with that.”

The MoonDogs (26-18) didn’t wait long to get things going on Wednesday. Austin Bull, who finished 5-for-5 at the plate, drove in a run with a single in the second inning, and another run came in to score on the play as Eau Claire mishandled the ball in the outfield. Mankato’s Kenton Crews added to the lead with a sacrifice fly in the next at-bat.

Devon Garcia’s RBI infield single got the Express (17-26) on the board in the second, scoring Eau Claire North grad Adam LaRock.

“I was just trying to be ready early, keep my hands up,” said Garcia, who had two hits on the night. “I found when I keep my hands up, I have a way better path to the ball.”

Express starting pitcher Carson Rudd ran into more trouble in the fourth inning, as the first three Mankato hitters of the inning reached base. Bull and Crews added to their big days, hitting back-to-back high-bouncing singles over Express infielders to push the MoonDogs’ lead to 6-1.

That ended Rudd’s day after just three innings of work, but Mankato kept things going against the Express bullpen. The MoonDogs added another run on an Eau Claire error – the third in the first four innings for the Express.

Every Mankato starter got an at-bat in the four-run fourth.

Meanwhile, Lukas kept humming along. He had four strikeouts from the second to the third inning.

“A lot of strikeouts for him tonight, I’ve got to give him his credit,” Garcia said of Lukas. “We just came out a little flat tonight from a dugout perspective.”

Noah Sifrit got a run back for the Express with an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth, and Spencer Myers drove in a run by grounding out in the sixth.

Eau Claire touched up reliever Brett Newberg for five hits in two innings, but only managed one run off of him.

The Express kept fighting until the finish though. They loaded the bases in the seventh, but Newberg managed to turn them away. It didn’t help that Mankato kept piling it on with its lineup, as the MoonDogs had scored three more runs in the seventh, including two on Eau Claire’s fourth error of the game.

Eau Claire struck out 11 times in the loss.

“We’ve got to put it together day after day after day. Right now we’re not doing that,” Varsho said. “We’ve got to find a way to get them focused day in, day out. Right now, it’s up to them.”


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