The Madison Mallards return home Friday night looking for a much needed victory against the Wisconsin Woodchucks after going 2-4 on their recent six game road trip.
After starting out 1-2 on the trip and having an off day on Monday, the Mallards split a two game series with the Mankato Moon Dogs. On Tuesday night, the Mallards got off to a great start as left fielder Erik Johnson led off the game with his third home run of the season, a moonshot to left field to give the Mallards the early lead.
However, that was all the Mallards offense could muster against Moon Dog starter Jason Conrad as they lost 4-1. Conrad was magnificent as he threw a complete game and allowed only two other hits all night while striking out 12.
Mike Johnston (2-2) also pitched a complete game for the Mallards, but was undone by three Mallards errors, including two by his own doing, in giving up four runs, though only two earned, on six hits. The big inning for Mankato was the third, as they scored three runs, two on a Johnston throwing error.
The Mallards rebounded on Wednesday night behind the pitching of Amad Stephens to post an impressive 6-2 win. Stephens was fantastic in his complete game victory, allowing two runs on only three hits in improving to 2-3 on the season. Stephens got stronger as the game went on, retiring the last 13 batters he faced. The back to back complete games by Johnston and Stephens was a first in Mallards history.
Madison had many hitting stars on Wednesday night as well, led by the top of the order. Shortstop Dominic Ramos and left fielder Erik Johnson combined to go 4-9 with an RBI double and five runs scored. The team totaled ten hits on the evening in splitting the two game series with the Moon Dogs.
Thursday night, the Mallards made the short trip to Wausau to take on the Wisconsin Woodchucks in the first game of a home and home series and once again had a nice start to the evening. They scored three runs in the first inning off Woodchucks starter B.J. Brandenburger on two hits and three errors to take the early lead.
But once again, the offense could not muster any more runs off Brandenburger and the Woodchucks fought back off Mallard starter Mike Schaefer to win going away 6-3. The big blow was a three run fifth for Wisconsin which knocked out Schaefer, who fell to 0-1 on the season.
After the first inning, the Mallards only recorded two hits the rest of the evening while striking out 13 times, including 10 off Brandenburger, who pitched eight strong innings to improve 6-2 for Wisconsin. Steve Grasley then struck out the side in the ninth to record his 16th save of the season, a new Northwoods League record.
The Mallards, now 6-14 in the second half and 19-33 overall, look to get back to their winning ways on Friday night as they host Wisconsin. On Saturday, the Mallards leave on a four game road trip to Alexandria and Waterloo, their last extended road trip of the season.