Seven Mallards Return to Help 2009 Squad



Date: February 13, 2009

Seven Mallards Return to Help 2009 Squad
Illinois Shortstop Wikoff Back for 3rd Year

(MADISON, WI) Illinois junior shortstop Brandon Wikoff [pictured left] headlines the list of returning Madison Mallards players for the 2009 season. The only projected three-year Mallard finished 2008 with a .310 batting average and 24 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. He also had a hitting streak of 10 games from June 18 to June 28. In the postseason Wikoff led all Northwoods League hitters with eight base-knocks, good for a .444 average over five games. He needs 31 runs scored and 52 hits to surpass Jordan Comadena (Purdue) and Mike Rohde’s (Illinois) career batting records, respectively. Wikoff’s .315 two-year average also puts him in position to challenge Ryan Rogowski’s (Illinois) career .320 mark set in 2005. In 2007 he hit .323 with 14 RBIs that included an impressive hitting streak of 16 games and was named a Postseason All-Star.

After each returning player’s biography Mallards Manager C.J. Thieleke has made comments regarding individual expectations.

“We’re in a win-win situation in having Brandon come back for a third season in Madison. He’s our spark plug and I compare his situation to a college basketball program bringing its starting point guard back for three seasons. Brandon’s received enough time on the field in the Northwoods League that if he gets the opportunity to be a professional baseball player he’ll no doubt be ready. But there are certainly tools he needs to work on during his final season in Madison,” said Mallards Manager C.J. Thieleke.

NWL Mid-Season All-Star starting pitcher Matt Jansen [pictured right] returns for a second year after posting a 2-5 record and 3.05 ERA in 11 starts over 56 innings last season. The Purdue junior left-hander was named to the all-star game with a 2-1 record and 1.73 ERA through the first half. He was very effective pitching on the road, posting a 1.91 ERA in 33 innings. Jansen led the Mallards pitching staff in innings-pitched (56) and strikeouts (43) on the season.

“If Matt can build off last year’s impressive first-half performance we’ll be in good shape. I look for him to have an outstanding spring season at Purdue and come to us with another year of experience on his belt. Matt has the opportunity to be one of the leaders on this team and I’m very excited to have him work with pitching coach Jason Immekus for another season.”

Iowa junior left-handed pitcher Kyle Heim returns as the team’s most experienced bullpen arm after throwing 43.1 innings and finishing with a 4.36 ERA and 4-2 record. He tied Jansen’s team-high 43 strikeouts while throwing 13 less innings. Before July 25 Heim gave up more than one earned run only once in 17 appearances.

“Kyle left us last summer feeling good about his abilities and reports from Iowa are that his increased confidence has carried over into the fall season. He’s a great piece to build around in the bullpen and I know that Iowa’s pitching coach and former Mallards assistant Chris Maliszewski will provide the proper tutelage in making Kyle a formidable prospect. If he can continue to pound the strike zone we expect big things from Kyle.” 

Charlotte sophomore right-handed pitcher Joe Yermal returns a year removed from a perfect 4-0 record and 4.42 ERA in 10 starts. The 6’6” youngster was especially effective towards the end of the season, posting a 2.45 ERA in 14.2 innings while holding batters to a miniscule .218 batting average during the month of August. He also recorded the team’s sole victory in the championship series with a 5 inning, 4 hit, 2 run performance in a 4-3 game two win over the Thunder Bay Border Cats.

“Joe really never pitched at 100 percent last season so his outstanding numbers are a complete reflection of his bulldog mentality and strong work ethic. It was great to see him fight through the proverbial ‘freshman wall’ and become a better player on the other side. Joe is another exciting prospect, provides a lot of energy for our club, and I know our fans will enjoy each and every one of his starts.” 

A member of the 2008 National Champion Fresno State Bulldogs, sophomore outfielder Trent Soares looks to improve upon last year’s .235 average. Soares did have seven multi-hit games though, including three 3-hit games in only 29 contests. The versatile left-hander made five starts in left field, 20 in center, and four in right.

“Trent can play all three outfield positions and has a very exciting future as a hitter. His opposite-field home run during last year’s game three of the NWL Championship Series was the type of hit that can give a player a lot of confidence heading into the following season.”

USC sophomore infielder Joe De Pinto returns after having been with the team for two consecutive 10-day contracts to begin the 2008 season. During that 18 game span, he had a .250 average with 8 RBIs. De Pinto made 15 starts at second base for Thieleke.

“Not being able to sign Joe to a full contract after his two ten-day contracts expired was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made in my five years in Madison. I know he left a positive impression on our fans and we’re all excited to have him on a full-time basis. Joe can play all three infield positions at a very high-intelligence level.”

Charlotte junior right-handed relief pitcher Bryan Hamilton had a short stay in Madison a year ago due to an arm injury but was able to record a victory in three appearances. Hamilton also pitched a two-inning save in a 7-4 victory against the Green Bay Bullfrogs on June 28. 

“Bryan battled some arm issues last summer but is just too good of a talent to not take another chance on. He’ll throw a lot this spring at Charlotte and have the opportunity to become an elite college bullpen pitcher. If the circumstances work out we think Bryan can be a shutdown guy in the back end of our bullpen.”

Thieleke summarized the group of returning players as saying, “All of the above returnees have been very productive for us and it’s been exciting to work with their respective colleges in getting these players ready for professional baseball down the road. Each guy has a special talent, but most importantly, they know what it takes to compete and be successful in the Northwoods League. I expect a lot of leadership from these seven players and help in making the new players feel as comfortable as possible.”