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Excellent Pitching Not Quite Enough

The Madison Mallards? five-game winning streak ended where it began seven days ago, at Carson Park in Eau Claire. The Mallards (now 7-4) fell just short, 3-1, to the Express (6-5) tonight, Monday, June 12, 2006.

The Mallards pitching staff threw a strong game despite the loss. Starter Adam Mills (below) pitched six innings, striking out eight while walking one and allowing six hits and two runs.

Scott Reese pitched one-plus inning, giving up only a walk, but was taken out of the game after committing a throwing error when Express second baseman Brian Frou hit a grounder to Reese, who was unable to toss the ball to Mallards first baseman Jordan Comadena.

Brett Scarpetta came in to replace Reese. Although he allowed one runner to score, third baseman Ian Hollick, who got on by way of a walk and advanced due to the throwing error, Scarpetta pitched a lights-out rest of the eighth after allowing a walk following the run. He threw two swinging strikeouts and then snared a line drive laced right at himself.

The pitching was great. The offense was decent ? too often, it seemed as if all the Mallards hits went right to Express fielders ? but not everyone can call a shot, and there also were a few stranded runners. The real problem, however, was that errors finally caught up with the Mallards.

In addition to the aforementioned error, which did not affect the overall outcome of the game but was telling of the team?s recent fielding experiences, there was another error committed by the Mallards in the second inning that did have a greater impact on the result of the game and put the Express ahead for good.

After Mills induced a 4-3 groundout to start the second inning, Express designated hitter Ted Pattock got to first base by way of a single, and was advanced to third on a throwing error that allowed catcher Nate McKeon to reach base and move to second. Shortstop Mike LaLuna then drove both runners in with a one-out double. After the hit, there was a strikeout when Express first baseman T.J. Cataldo went around on a check swing.

Ian Hollick would eventually strike out, stranding three, after the bases were loaded off a single and a walk.

The runners left on base for the Express serve as a testament to the Mallards pitching performance. When the Madison pitchers got into jams that was when they threw their best pitches. Although the Mallards allowed runners in five of the eight innings Eau Claire came to the plate, the Madison pitching staff stranded nine of the 12 Express runners ? leaving the bases loaded twice.

Madison went up against Eau Claire starter Patrick Criss, who they defeated the last time they faced the Express by notching nine hits, three runs and one walk against him in six innings. This time, Criss lasted six innings as well, but only allowed the Mallards three hits, one run and two walks.

However, the Mallards walked against Criss twice this game, not once, and struck out twice instead of six times. So they showed improvement against him in some areas tonight, and also got a run out of him.

In the fifth inning, with one out, Bobby Hubbard walked on a full count with one out. He advanced when Blaine Rutledge found himself safe as a result of the second baseman Frou?s error. Hubbard then made it home when Criss? pitched skipped away from McKeon. But that would be the only run the Mallards would be able to bring to the plate.

The Mallards play again tomorrow, Tuesday, June 13, 2006, when they will try to even this series, and the season series, with the Express at 7:05 p.m.

Catch every pitch on Madison?s Fox Sports Radio, over the airwaves at 100.5 FM, or online at www.mallardsbaseball.com or www.foxsportsmadison.com.

The Mallards return to the Duck Pond Friday, June 16, 2006, to take on the Duluth Huskies. Great seats are still available for both the Friday (7:05 p.m.) and Saturday (6:05 p.m.) games of the two-game series. Visit www.mallardsbaseball.com, call 608.246.4277 or stop by the Mallards ticket office at the Duck Pond for tickets or more information.