The Eau Claire Express lost 4-1 and 10-3 to the Waterloo Bucks in potentially its final games of the year at Carson Park on Sunday. To extend their season, they’ll need to make up some ground in a short period of time.
The losses push Eau Claire to 12-18 in the second half entering the final week of play, 5.5 back of Waterloo for the Great Plains Division lead. The hill to climb thankfully isn’t that steep for the Express thanks to Waterloo winning the first half title. If the Bucks finish atop the division in the second half the second-placed team will qualify for the postseason, but Eau Claire still needs the final six days of the regular season slate to go in its favor to be in that position.
Eau Claire would need to hop both the Duluth Huskies and La Crosse Loggers to keep its hopes of a return to the Summer Collegiate World Series alive. It currently sits three games back of Duluth and one game back of La Crosse.
The Express’ best chance at a victory Sunday came in Game 1, which went to an extra eighth inning with the teams tied 1-1. Paul Steffensen got the automatic runner at second base home on a single, then stole second and third to allow Jalen Smith to bring him home on a flyout. Josh Patrick pushed the advantage to 4-1 on an RBI single and Eau Claire had no answer, getting as far as first base in the bottom of the frame.
Waterloo scored all 10 of its runs from the second through third in the nightcap, which was called after six innings. Eau Claire opened with a 3-0 lead in the first, powered by RBIs off a single from Carter Graham, a double from Carter Mize and a Hamilton Anderson groundout. But the Bucks got to the Express pitching duo of Jackson Bahn and Robert Hogan, scoring four earned runs off the Bahn and five off Hogan.
Sam Biller had five RBIs as Waterloo flexed its offensive muscles, tying the game with three runs in the second before adding four in the third and three in the fourth.
Alejandro Macario drove in Eau Claire’s lone run in the opener. No one on the Express had more than one hit in either game, while Mize and Fall Creek native Marcus Cline accounted for the team’s only extra-base hits on the day. Each had a double in Game 2.
Eau Claire has a strong opportunity to help itself in the divisional race when it travels to La Crosse for a two-game series Monday. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. The team rounds out the regular season with two-game series against Waterloo and Willmar.