Matt Bottcher extended the Eau Claire Express winning streak to five games, hitting a walk-off single in the 10th inning to earn a 5-4 victory against the Thunder Bay Border Cats Monday night.
The RBI was his second of the game, as he gave the Express a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh on a putout. But like the previous three leads in the game, it wouldn’t last.
Phillip Sikes opened the scoring in the first inning, driving Troy Beilsmith home from third on a sacrifice fly. Thunder Bay snatched the lead back with a run in the second and fourth on a Jake Engel homer and Jordan Larson single, respectively.
Eau Claire moved ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning after Brock Burton advanced on an error and Spencer Myers hit an RBI single.
The teams traded runs in the seventh, with Thomas Grilli tying the game for the Border Cats only to have Bottcher answer back. Thunder Bay forced the extra frame with an Andrew Shebloski sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.
Bottcher’s game winner sent home Beilsmith, who started the inning at second due to the new extra-inning rules in the Northwoods League.
Eau Claire Memorial graduate Jack Brown earned the win for the Express, allowing one hit and one earned run in three innings of work. Starter Matt Verdun allowed three earned runs and seven hits while striking out three in seven innings.
Eau Claire, Duluth and La Crosse sit tied atop of the Great Plains East after the Express’ victory and the Loggers triumph against the Huskies Monday. The Waterloo Bucks sit a game back.
The Express hit the road for four games in the next three days, kicking off with a doubleheader today against the Willmar Stingers. The first game is at 11:05 a.m., with the teams then returning to action at 7:05 p.m. Eau Claire will then head to Mankato for a two-game series with the MoonDogs.
Express 5, Thunder Bay 4
Thunder Bay 010 100 1100 — 4 8 2
Eau Claire 100 020 1001 — 5 8 2
WP: Jack Brown (3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K). LP: Aaron Kern (1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K). Leading hitters — Thunder Bay: Jake Engel 3-4 (RBI, R). Eau Claire: Matt Bottcher 1-5 (2 RBI), Spencer Myers 2-5 (RBI), Troy Beilsmith 2-5 (2 R), Phillip Sikes 103 (RBI).