EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WSAU-Woodchucks) - The Eau Claire Express took the victory in a back-and-forth game with the Wisconsin Woodchucks by a score of 7-4 to make Dale Varsho the winningest field manager in Northwoods League history. The win was Varsho’s 301st in his Northwoods League career, breaking Darrell Handelsman’s record of 300 victories.
The Express were able to push the first run across in their first at-bats against Woodchucks starter Matt Ditman. After a chopper off the bat of Tim Zier found its way through the infield, Zier would score later in the inning on an infield single by Blake Schmit to make it a 1-0 game. Ditman would run into more bad luck in the bottom of the third. The Express would push across two more runs in the inning on four hits. Of the four hits, only two left the infield, including a leadoff double by Sam Haggerty. Matt Menard brought home a run on a fielder’s choice, and another run scored on an infield single by Mike Porcaro to extend the Express lead to three runs.
Express starter Paul Voelker carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before the Woodchucks were able to create three runs of their own. With one out, Austin Diemer dropped down a bunt single to break up the no-hitter. Diemer then stole second base and later scored on an infield single by Rob Bennie to get the Chucks on the board for the first time in the game. The Woodchucks would go on to score two more runs in the inning – one on an error by Tim Wise and the other on a double by Tyler Stieb – to tie the game up at three runs apiece.
After a scoreless fifth from Ditman, the Woodchucks would take their first lead of the game in the sixth. After Jake Jefferies singled to lead the inning off, he would steal second and go to third on a groundout by Matt Tellor. With two outs, Diemer singled to left to plate Jefferies and give the Woodchucks a 4-3 lead.
The lead would not last long. In the bottom of the frame, the Express answered with three runs, highlighted by a two-run triple off the bat of Charlie White. White would later score on a sacrifice fly by Haggerty to make it a 6-4 in favor of the Express. The Express would add some insurance in the bottom of the seventh. After a dropped pop up by Jefferies, Porcaro would come around to score on a base hit by Dalton Bowers to make it a 7-4 game. Voelker would finish eight complete innings, allowing only those four runs on six hits in picking up the victory. Matt Trowbridge recorded the save for the Express.
The Woodchucks and Express will face each other again tomorrow night in Eau Claire for the second game of a three-game set. The Woodchucks will return home Sunday to face the Thunder Bay Bordercats with first pitch scheduled for 5:05 p.m. You can listen to the game on Fox Sports Wausau, WRIG 1390 AM and 93.9 FM.