Jul. 27—Stepping up to the plate in a big moment, something unexpected caught Carter Graham's eye.
His Stanford and Eau Claire Express teammate Eddie Park was standing confidently at first base after a Rochester pitching change in the fifth inning. It was a surprising place to be, considering he had just advanced to second base prior to the mound visit.
"As I was getting in the box, I was looking around and was like, 'Eddie, you're on second. What are you doing, man?'" Graham said on the Northwoods League broadcast. "And he's like, 'Oh my God.'"
Park took his rightful spot at second base. It was a good thing he did, too.
Graham promptly hit a two-RBI single to center field, giving the Express a 3-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish in a victory over Rochester on Monday at Carson Park.
"After that, I was kind of able to check myself back in and I got a good pitch to hit," Graham said. "It wasn't the prettiest one, for sure, it wasn't the best swing of the day, but I was able to put a good barrel on it and poke it out and find some grass."
The two-run single made the difference in a well-pitched game. Eau Claire's Hunter Rosenbaum earned the win with five innings of work in which he allowed just one earned run.
Rochester scored once in the first inning and once in the fourth, but that was the only offense the Honkers could muster. Eau Claire relievers Eddy Pelc, Jace Kressin, Luke Trahan and Nick Herold threw four shutout innings to secure the victory.
Graham finished 2 for 4 for Eau Claire. He also hit an RBI double in the bottom of the first to get the Express on the board.
"I was just looking to get a ball in the air, a little sac fly," Graham said of the double. "And that's actually what I thought I did, but the ball carried a little farther and the outfielders didn't expect it, it ended up dropping. I was a little surprised, but I'll take it."
The Honkers got the tying and go-ahead runs on base with two outs in the eighth, but Trahan struck out the only batter he faced in relief to escape the jam.
The Express moved to 10-9 in the second half and remained in first place in the Great Plains East Division. The winner of the division will qualify for the postseason.
Eau Claire returns to action at 12:05 p.m. Tuesday in Rochester.
Five to play at Showcase
Five Express players will take part in the Northwoods League's Major League Dreams Showcase next week in La Crosse.
Connor Burns, Alec Baker, Graham, Park and Trahan will all represent Eau Claire at the event. The Major League Dreams Showcase is a doubleheader between the top players in the league, as selected by Major League Baseball scouts.
"I'm looking forward to it," Graham said. "It's going to be a brand new experience for us. I'm sure we're just going to go out there and try to represent the Express and do our best. It should be fun."