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The Madison Mallards chose to take a different route to their win Monday night. But most importantly, it still worked.

Instead of bursting out with a big inning, or even a few big innings, the Mallards drove just enough runners across the plate as they beat out the Wisconsin Woodchucks, 3-2, in Wausau. Also significant was how the Mallards, while not exploding with offense, did not falter offensively, either. It was a narrow, yet effective, path they chose to travel.

The win is the Mallards? third straight victory and fifth in six games.

Madison opened the scoring. With one out in the top of the first inning, Ryan Bond walked against Woodchucks starter Freddie Hampe. Mike Rohde followed suit with another walk and Jordan Comadena was hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded, Bobby Hubbard sent a ground ball to Woodchucks shortstop Corey Ashner. Ashner?s only play was to second base, and so Bond was able to score on the fielder?s choice.

Then, with Randy Molina at the plate, and two outs, it looked as if Hubbard had been picked off at first base. During the play, Rohde tried to find his way home, but was thrown out at home instead of Hubbard being caught at first. As Rohde tried to slide in safely, he injured his shoulder and was out for the remainder of the game.

In the bottom of the next inning, the Woodchucks evened the score against Mallards starter Tom Stilson. Steve Goins led off the inning with a single to center field. After Josh Vander Hey popped out to right field, Ryan Riley grounded out to third base, scoring Goins.

For a time, it appeared as if the Mallards? offensive woes were mounting a resurgence. The Mallards, despite the run in the first, were no-hit by Hampe until the top of the sixth inning. Stilson, however, was equally sharp over nearly the same span, retiring 14 straight batters. He pitched 6.2 innings, ending five of the six complete frames he pitched with strikeouts, three of them called. Over his start, Stilson struck out six total while allowing five hits, two earned runs, and no walks. The start was Stilson?s fourth of the season, resulting in his second decision and first win.

Before the Woodchucks scored their second run against Stilson, however, the Mallards picked up two more.

In the top of the sixth inning, Danny Dressman led off with a double. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Bond. As Tommy Lentz, who came in to replace Rohde, singled, Dressman was able to score and give the Mallards a 2-1 lead.

Madison scored again in the seventh inning to go up 3-1. Molina led off with a single, and Mitch Saum (pictured above left) did the same with a single of his own. Gary Arndt then advanced both runners, and reached base safely. Arndt put the ball in play with a sacrifice bunt, and instead of going to first base with it, Hampe went to third, but did not throw it there in time. Joe Oliver was up next. He reached base on a fielder?s choice, and Saum and Arndt advanced, but Molina was thrown out at home. Dressman, however, did not leave them all stranded. He scored Saum from third base on a sacrifice fly to give the Ducks their final run.

The Mallards are now driving in more runners from scoring position, something that has been an issue in many other games this year.

The Woodchucks also scored one run in the seventh, after Goins reached on a single ? the first time a Woodchuck reached since the second inning ? was advanced on a groundout and then driven in by Riley.

Craig Meier came in for Stilson after that run and got the last out of the seventh inning. He then pitched a scoreless eighth and got one out in the ninth before Seth Maier got to third on what was ruled a triple despite the ball being caught up in an obstruction.

But then, Mike Creevy (pictured below) came in to pitch for the Ducks.

With six saves to his credit, the Mallards looked to Creevy to help latch down this must-win game. He first faced Goins, who bunted in an attempt to score Maier. Creevy, however, decided to showcase more than his arm, making a diving grab and getting the ball back to the catcher, Oliver, just in time to tag Maier out at the plate. Jake Pole next entered the game to pinch run for Goins. Vander Hey moved Pole to Second with a single, but Creevy then struck Riley out on a 1-2 pitch to end the game.

The Ducks now lead the La Crosse Loggers by one game for the final Northwoods League South Division playoff spot as Madison has a one-game advantage over La Crosse with its overall season record.

Since the Rochester Honkers won the South Division first-half title and are on pace to win the second-half title, the second playoff spot in that division will go to the team with the next best overall season record. If both La Crosse and Madison finish with the same season record, the playoff spot will go to the team with the best head-to-head record. From there the tiebreaker is awarded to the team with the best intradivision record and finally a coin flip is used.

Madison returns home Tuesday to face the Waterloo Bucks. It?s Luedtke, Storm and Mackey Chiropractic Madison Senators Turn-Back-the-Clock night, presented by Madison Magazine. The Mallards will wear replica Senators uniforms. The Madison Senators played in Madison from 1907-1914. The first 1,000 fans will receive a free replica Senators hat.

The last regular season home game is Wednesday night against Waterloo. It?s Quench Gum Fan Appreciation Night. There will be great giveaways all night long.

Great tickets remain for both games. To purchase tickets, stop by the ticket office at the Duck Pond, call 608.246.4277 or go online to www.mallardsbaseball.com.

Published On: August 7th, 2006