Express get walk-off win, but NWL says not so fast

Brian Mundell is congratulated by his Eau Claire Express teammates after hitting a game-tying two-run home run in the fifth inning Monday against the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters at Carson Park.

When Drew Turbin got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the eighth of a tie game Monday afternoon, the Express players sprung from the dugout to celebrate the victory.

The home plate umpire stopped play. The fans left Carson Park. The players and coaches from both teams got on a bus to travel to Wisconsin Rapids for the second game of a home-and-home doubleheader. All thought the Express had won.

But they didn’t.

About 20 minutes after the game ended, the Northwoods League confirmed to Express officials that the game was to be suspended. Play will resume July 30 before the scheduled game between the Express and Wisconsin Rapids Rafters at Carson Park. It will pick up with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the eighth with the Express leading the Rafters 4-3.

“I think we at least should have finished out that inning, but I don’t think the umpires knew it either,” Express manager Dale Varsho said after hearing the news that the game was suspended an hour after the game ended. “But we’ll resume it like it is. With a split doubleheader, we have to have time to get over there, so it’s one of those things in the league that we just started this year, and we have to do what we have to do.”

Varsho was right in thinking that the eighth inning should have continued. Because the teams needed to be to Wisconsin Rapids an hour and a half before the scheduled 7:05 p.m. start of the second game, the first game began with a curfew of 2 hours, 45 minutes. No inning was to start after the curfew time, but the entire nine-inning game has to be completed at a later date.

The Express’ Eann Cox, making his last appearance of the summer, got his first start of the year and extended his scoreless inning streak to 16 innings before giving up a run in the top of the second. In the bottom of the inning, Turbin singled, stole second, went to third on an error and scored on an RBI groundout by Brian Mundell to tie the game.

The Rafters regained the lead with a run in the third, added another run in the sixth and had runners and second and third with no outs, threatening to put the game out of reach. But Express reliever Cory Taylor, also pitching in his last game of the summer, got out the inning with no more damage done.

“I’m glad Cory left on a good note,” Varsho said. “He is getting shut down by his (colleges) coaches. He can throw it up to 96 miles per hour. He hasn’t really aired it out yet, but I’m glad he had a really good finish and pitched like he can when the guys were on second and third.”

In the bottom of the sixth, the Rafters brought in soft-tossing left-hander Jeff Gogue. Throwing his fastball in the upper 70s and his off-speed pitches in the lower 60s, Gogue had the first two batters way out in front. But Turbin drew a walk, and after Mundell yanked a foul ball home-run distance, he timed a slow curveball and smashed a towering, game-tying home run onto the football field beyond the fence in left field.

“He was throwing a lot of curveballs, a lot of off-speed pitches,” Mundell said. “I hit that one foul. It was a little bit of a confidence booster knowing that the swing that I had was the one that I needed. He left that ball over the middle, and I was able to make the most of it.”

The game stayed tied at 3 until the bottom of the eighth. Jeff Hendrix started the rally with a double, then Daniel Salters legged out an infield single before Tyler Hermann was intentionally walked to load the bases for Turbin, who was hit in the back on a 3-1 pitch.

Thanks in part to a 25-minute rain delay in the fourth inning, the Express took the lead just after 2:45 p.m. in a game that started at noon.

If Eau Claire is able to close out the win July 30, the suspended game could be advantageous for the Express. They failed to make the playoffs in the first half, which came to an end Monday with a 12-4 win in the second game of the doubleheader in Wisconsin Rapids.

The Express used an eight-run seventh inning to finish the first half with a 16-17 record. Mundell continued his hot hitting day with a two-run single to start the scoring in the frame. Brent Gibbs then drove in a pair with a double, a run scored on a fielder’s choice and two runs came home on an error on a ball hit by Peter Van Gansen. Brady Burzynski drove in the eighth run with a single.

Peter Hendron got the win after throwing three innings of one-hit ball.


EXPRESS 12, RAFTERS 4

EAU CLAIRE (12)

AB-R-H-RBI: Brady Burzynski, lf, 5-1-3-3; Jeff Hendrix, cf, 4-0-1-0; Tyler Hermann, dh, 4-1-0-0; Brian Mundell, c, 5-1-1-2; Drew Turbin, 2b, 5-2-2-0; Brent Gibbs, 3b, 4-2-2-3; Jack Zoellner, 1b, 4-1-0-0; Mike Barajas, rf, 4-2-1-1; Peter Van Gansen, ss, 2-2-0-1; Ian Doughty, p, 0-0-0-0; Peter Hendron, p, 0-0-0-0; Eric Gleese, p, 0-0-0-0. Totals 37-12-10-10.

WISCONSIN RAPIDS (4)

Erik Payne, dh, 3-1-1-0; Woody Woodward, rf, 0-0-0-0; Zack Domingues, ss, 4-0-1-0; Michael Jurgella, p/rf, 2-0-1-0; Cullen Gassaway, 1b, 4-0-1-1; Tyler Servais, c, 3-0-0-0; Michael Hurwitz, 3b, 4-1-1-0; Kirby McGuire, cf, 3-1-0-0; Taylor Propst, 2b, 4-0-1-0; William Elliott, lf, 3-1-1-1; Zach Jackson, p, 0-0-0-0; Nick Prebelski, p, 0-0-0-0; Isaac Behme, p, 0-0-0-0. Totals 30-4-7-2.

Eau Claire 001 101 801 — 12 10 2

Rapids 000 040 000 — 4 7 2

E — Hendrix, Mundell; Elliott, Behme. LOB — Eau Claire 8; Wisconsin Rapids 7. 2B — Burzynski; Hurwitz. HR — Gibbs. SB — Turbin, Van Gansen; McGuire. CS — Payne, Domingues, McGuire. SAC — Burzynski.

Eau Claire IP H R ER BB SO

Doughty 5 5 4 3 5 2

Hendron, W 3 1 0 0 1 0

Gleese 1 1 0 0 1 2

Wisconsin Rapids

Jackson 6 3 3 3 5 7

Prebelski, L 1/3 2 4 3 1 0

Behme 2/3 3 4 2 1 0

Jurgella 2 2 1 1 0 1

WP — Doughty 3, Jackson.