Baseball Standouts Help Express Win Northwoods Title
Aug. 24, 2010
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. - Two UIC baseball players who spent the summer playing for the Eau Claire Express helped the Northwoods team win the league championship and secure the top ranking in Perfect Game CrossChecker's final 2010 ranking of the nation's top summer-league clubs.
UIC seniors Steve McGuiggan and Andy Leonard played significant roles in helping the Express post the Northwoods' top overall record at 52-28, win both the first and second-half regular season titles, a South Division championship and down the Rochester Honkers in the best-of-three championship series. The 52 wins were the most by any club this summer which helped garner the No. 1 spot in the final rankings.
After blanking the Honkers 6-0 in the series opener, the Express was whitewashed 11-0 in game two setting up a decisive game three at Carson Park in Eau Claire on Sunday. It was in that contest that McGuiggan rose to the occasion.
The Apple Valley, Minn. native blasted a pair of two-run homers to give his team an early 4-0 lead and notched an outfield assist from his customary spot in centerfield when he gunned down Rochester's Andrew Mendenhall at home in the top of the fifth as the Honkers tried to scratch out their first run of the ballgame. the Express went on to win the game, 9-1.
McGuiggan batted .278 (42-for-151) and led his team with seven home runs during the regular season. He played in 44 games and did not commit and error in 93 chances while tallying five outfield assists for Eau Claire.
Leonard also had a sensational summer up north. In the final game of the South Division Championship Series against the Wisconsin Woodchucks, the shortstop drove in the go-ahead run en route to a 6-2 victory.
Leonard, who hails from Orland Park, Ill., led the Express with 34 RBI and 65 hits in 65 games played during the regular season.
The Northwoods League is a summer baseball league comprised of 16 teams of the top college players from around the country. Headquartered in Rochester, Minn., the league's teams are based primarily in Wisconsin and Minnesota, with one team each in Iowa (Waterloo), Michigan (Battle Creek) and Canada (Thunder Bay). The players are not paid which preserves their NCAA eligibility, however each team is operated similar to a professional minor league club, with wood bats, overnight road trips and baseballs that are up to minor league specifications all part of the Northwoods equation.
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