The Eau Claire Express gathered some momentum as the Northwoods League All-Star break approached, but it took a bit of a dip on Sunday.
The Express’ win streak came to an end at three following a 6-1 defeat to Rochester at Carson Park, sending Eau Claire into the three-day break on a low note.
The Honkers got to Express starter Brandt Pancer early, scoring four times in the top of the first inning. Eau Claire never threatened with a comeback. The defeat leaves the Express at 8-6 in the second half of the season, tied with Duluth atop the Great Plains East Division. The winners of the Division in the first and second half make the playoffs.
The league will take a collective three-day break for All-Star festivities in Mankato beginning Monday. The All-Star game is set for Tuesday.
Rochester sent the Express into the week with a defeat thanks to three doubles and a two-run home run in the first inning on Sunday.
Eau Claire scored on an RBI single from Nick Marinconz in the third inning, but it was the only damage the Express could manage. Honkers starter Brant Alazhaus worked five strong innings, holding Eau Claire to three hits while striking out seven.
The Rochester bullpen was equally effective. Patrick Williams and Jay Thompson teamed up to post four scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
Ryan Lin-Peistrup and Alejandro Macario had two hits each for the Express. Pancer recovered from the shaky start and went 5.2 innings. He didn’t allow any more runs the rest of the way.
Upon their return from the All-Star break, the Express will begin the push for a playoff spot in earnest. Four weeks remain in the regular season, and the majority of Eau Claire’s remaining games are on the road. Most are against division foes.
The Express return to action with two games at Mankato on Thursday and Friday. They return home when they host La Crosse on Saturday.