MADISON, WI – Kalamazoo had struggled mightily against Madison this season. All three games had come down to the wire, and all three resulted in close Mallards wins. Tonight, the trend was finally broken. KZoo topped Madison in extra innings thanks to RBI doubles from Nolan McCarthy and Devin Burkes, and a tough pressure performance from Adam Wheaton.
Through the first seven innings, the contest moved smoothly thanks to an extremely solid outing from Hayden Berg. He only struck out two batters, but kept Madison off balance all night long. The righty from Western Michigan allowed just four Mallards on base through the first seven innings. He was also helped out by some great defense behind him. Damon Lux made multiple diving plays in center field, and McCarthy threw out a runner trying to score from second on a two-out single.
Berg’s outing was cushioned by a complete 180 from the KZoo bats. After striking out 15 times on Thursday, manager Cody Piechocki told the team during pregame batting practice to focus on executing in different situations instead of swinging for the fences. Many Growlers came out with different approaches, fighting deep into counts.
The scoring started in the top of the second, when McCarthy hit a line drive single off of Madison starter Eliot Turnquist, and Don Goodes drove a ball back up the middle to score the Kentucky outfielder. The Growlers would tack on two more runs in the fifth; Brooks Coetzee led off with a single, Jake Gelof perfectly executed a hit-and-run, getting Coetzee to third, and Henry Gargus singled in the Notre Dame man. Gelof came around to score on a wild pitch.
The Mallards weren’t going down without a fight. The Ducks’ late fight started with a lead off double in the eighth from two-way player Joe Hauser and an RBI single from catcher Josh Caron. Berg’s day was done after that, and Wheaton came in for his first appearance out of the pen. He worked out of a two on, one out jam, and would come back out for the ninth.
Madison manager Donnie Scott had plenty of power stashed away on his bench. Three of the Mallards’ top five hitters had the night off. But after Tyler Dean began the bottom of the ninth with a single, Scott called in the reinforcements. Northwoods League All-Star Alex Iadisernia pinch hit for Hauser with two outs, and after Wheaton got ahead in the count, the Elon outfielder ripped a fastball over the left field fence to tie the game.
Every pitch was high stakes from that point on. Scott brought in Sam Vomhof to pitch the 10th after the rest of his bullpen had tossed five and a third scoreless. The tall righty struggled against the Growlers at Homer Stryker, and history repeated itself.
Dom Pitelli came in to pinch run as the runner on second, David Coppedge bunted him over, and McCarthy punched a fastball past Dean at first base down the right field line. Kalamazoo had a 4-3 lead, but Devin Burkes wasn’t done. He smoked a heater off the video board in right center to score McCarthy and give Kzoo insurance it desperately needed.
Madison got a run back in the bottom of the 10th, and with the tying run 90 feet from home plate, Wheaton brought his best stuff, striking out Bryant Shellenbarger and getting Dean to ground out to end the game.
Kalamazoo now heads to Kokomo to face the Great Lakes East division-leading Jackrabbits. First pitch is at 6:30 ET.