For the second straight night, the Eau Claire Express got off to a hot start. For the second straight night, the Waterloo Bucks battled back to take the lead in the middle innings before the Express rallied in the eighth. And like the night before, the rally came up just short.
Despite the late signs of life, the Express were dumped 5-4 on Thursday night at Carson Park for their seventh loss in the past 10 games, dropping them to .500 for the first time since May 30.
"In this two game series right here, I've never seen so many ground balls through the infield and seeing a ground ball go over the third baseman's head — I mean, that's baseball," Express manager Dale Varsho said. "We've just got to figure out how we can get some luck on our side."
Eau Claire kicked things off in the bottom of the first inning when an errant throw to second from Waterloo catcher Blake Berger flew into center field, allowing Brady Burzynski to advance to third base. The throw to third from center fielder Will Sparks sailed into the third-base bleachers and Burzynski took the free pass home.
Eau Claire would add another in the inning when Drew Turbin batted home Daniel Salters on a groundout to third.
However, after the shaky start, Bucks starter Cody Sedlock settled in, holding the Express to three hits and no runs while striking out seven across the next 5q innings.
"The first inning (Sedlock) was pretty sloppy, he was all over the place and we had some good counts to hit balls with," Varsho said. "But after that, he was still filling it up at 92 (miles per hour) in the seventh inning, so he did what he had to do to keep us guessing up there."
Waterloo began chipping away at the Express lead in the very next inning, with a single by Ryan Nagle that brought in a run. The Bucks tied it up on a hard ground ball single up the middle by Pat MacKenzie in the top of the fifth and took the lead with a bouncing grounder over the head of Tyler Hermann by Jon McAllister.
The Bucks would score a run each in the sixth and the seventh to take a 5-2 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, Drew Turbin put the Express back on the board, arcing a triple to the corner in left field that scored Hermann from first. Two batters later, Brent Gibbs slapped a two-out double to the same spot, and the Waterloo lead was cut to 5-4.
However, Gibbs was stranded at second when Jack Zoellner went down swinging, and the Express would go three up, three down in the bottom of the ninth to end the ball game.
Eau Claire (11-11) will look to regroup and take a couple of games back in a two-game series against the St. Cloud Rox (13-10) that begins tonight at Carson Park.
"We just have to play good baseball, day in and day out, and it's all about making plays, making things happen," Varsho said.
Notes: The win was Waterloo manager Travis Kiewiet's 100th career victory.
BUCKS 5, EXPRESS 4
AB-R-H-RBI: Pat Mackenzie, 2b, 5-2-2-1; Jon McAllister, rf, 5-0-1-1; John Sternagel, 3b, 5-0-1-1; AJ Puk, dh, 5-0-0-0; Will Sparks, cf, 4-1-3-0; Connor McClain, lf, 2-1-0-0; Blake Berger, c, 4-0-1-1; Ryan Nagle, 1b, 4-1-2-1; Jake Riffice, ss, 3-0-1-0; Cody Sedlock, p, 0-0-0-0; Aaron Myers, p, 0-0-0-0; J.D. Moore, p, 0-0-0-0; Adam Dian, p, 0-0-0-0. Totals 37-5-11-5.
Brady Burzynski, cf, 5-1-1-0; Mike Porcaro, 2b, 5-0-1-0; Daniel Salters, dh, 2-1-0-0; Tyler Hermann, 3b, 3-1-1-0; Drew Turbin, lf, 4-1-1-2; Mike Barajas, rf, 3-0-0-0; Brent Gibbs, c, 4-0-2-1; Jack Zoellner, 1b, 4-0-0-0; Peter Van Gansen, ss, 3-0-1-0; CJ Eldred, p, 0-0-0-0; Brett Seeburger, p, 0-0-0-0; Eric Gleese, p, 0-0-0-0. Totals 33-4-7-3.
Bucks 010 021 100 — 5 11 2
Express 200 000 020 — 4 7 1
E — Sparks, Sedlock; Porcaro. LOB — Bucks 8, Express 7. 2B — Sternagel, Nagle; Gibbs. 3B — Turbin. SB — Mackenzie 2, Berger; Burzynski, Van Gansen. SAC — Riffice.
Bucks IP H R ER BB SO
Sedlock, W (2-2) 6q 5 2 1 3 9
Myers 1 2 2 2 1 1
Moore 3 0 0 0 0 1
Dian, S (6) 1 0 0 0 0 1
Eldred, L (0-2) 6 7 4 3 1 2
Seeburger 2 4 1 1 0 2
Gleese 1 0 0 0 0 2
WP — Sedlock 3. HBP — Sedlock, Seeburger.
T — 2:56. A — 1,328.