It was close through six, but a pair of runs in the seventh and a breakout five-run eighth inning proved more than enough for the Eau Claire Express to down the Duluth Huskies 9-1 on Saturday night in Duluth.
Nick Alvarado was brilliant on the mound for Eau Claire. The junior pitcher out of Illinois-Springfield went six innings, allowing just one run on five hits with five strikeouts. His lone run came in the third inning when Nic Kent cashed in Matt Hogan on a sac fly to tie up the game at 1-1.
Eau Claire took the lead again in the fourth when Zach Gilles took a bases-loaded walk to score Vincent Martinez. Gilles, a Chippewa Falls native, was bumped up to the second spot in the Express’ lineup and is now hitting .333 through two games.
Troy Beilsmith and Spencer Myers led off the seventh inning with a pair of walks. Two batters later, Brandon Dieter gave Eau Claire a comfortable cushion, cashing them in with a two-run double.
In the eighth, the wheels came off for Duluth. Brock Burton led off with a walk, flipping the lineup over and bringing Cole Cabrera to the plate. A batter later, with two on, Gilles hit a RBI single to put Eau Claire up 5-1.
The Huskies found themselves in real trouble after that. Eau Claire sent its three all-star position players to the plate. First, Matt Bottcher hit a RBI single, Beilsmith followed with a run-scoring single of his own, then Myers reached on a run-scoring error by Duluth’s shortstop.
Dieter capped off the scoring for the Express with a RBI double, his second of the game.
Jack Brown and Tim Ewald threw a combined three innings in relief. Neither of them allowed any runs.
The Express finish their road trip in Duluth today at 3:05 p.m. when Craig Colen takes the mound. Colen has a 3.85 ERA in three games this season.
Eau Claire 9, Duluth 1
Eau Claire 010 010 025 — 9 10 1
Duluth 001 000 000 — 1 8 1
WP: Nick Alvarado (6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K). LP: Mason Bryant (3.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 K). Leading hitters — Eau Claire: Zach Gilles 1-5 (R, 2 RBI), Matt Bottcher 2-6 (R, RBI), Troy Beilsmith 2-3 (2 R, RBI), Vincent Martinez 2-4 (2 RBI), Brandon Dieter 3-4 (3 RBI, 2 2B); Duluth: Nic Kent 1-4 (RBI, 2B)
Records: Eau Claire 22-18; Duluth 15-25.