The Madison Mallards produced their first shutout of the season in 3-0 fashion to reclaim a .500 record and split the two-game home series against the Thunder Bay Border Cats.
With Wisconsin getting swept by Brainerd, the Mallards moved up to the second position in the standings and remain in the chase for a first-half playoff bid.
Brian Smith, who entered the game with a 7.94 ERA, received the starting nod from Manager C.J. Thieleke and was a huge part in Madison’s shutout victory. Smith went 7.0 innings and only let up four Border Cat hits while striking out five batters and walking none.
During the same span, Thunder Bay starting pitcher Kris Ruepke limited the Mallards to two hits, no runs and one walk through 6.0 innings of work to set up a 0-0 game entering the bottom of the seventh.
In the seventh, Kirk Barnard replaced Ruepke and found himself in early trouble. Bobby Hubbard (pictured) got things going as the Mallards leadoff batter of the inning with a single to right center field. Chris Roberts stepped up to the plate as a pinch hitter, replacing Scott Heitshusen, and advanced Hubbard to second on a sacrifice bunt. Michael Hubbard followed through with a man in scoring position, as he singled to right center, scoring Bobby Hubbard for a 1-0 lead.
Dan Sorce relieved Smith at the mound for the Mallards in the top half of the eighth and kept the home team in winning position, shutting down the Cats offense. Though Steve Boldt walked to lead off the inning, Sorce caught Boldt cheating a little too far off the bag and was able to retire him with a pickoff throw. After the first out, Sorce then struck out Kyle Dudley, and later forced a groundout from Temple Macdonald.
Brandon Wikoff stepped in as the first batter in the bottom of the eighth and singled to left field. During the next at-bat, Wikoff stole second and later scored on Daniel Webb’s sacrifice flyout to center. For the final run of the game, Neil Medchill singled and strangely took the next three bases on a series of a hit-by-pitch and two consecutive balks. Second-base umpire Clay Parks noticed Dan Zehr’s kickoff foot was off the rubber, which led to Medchill cruising home for the third run of the evening.
Smith (1-0) earned the win and reduced his ERA from just under 8.00 to 3.55 in his impressive performance from the mound. Bubba O’Donnell came in for the final four outs of the game for Sorce and earned his third save out of seven appearances.
On the losing side was Barnard (1-2), who let up three hits and two runs.
Offensively for the home team, six different Mallards recorded a basehit, including Ryan Tinkoff, who made a start in his season debut on the Mallards roster. Tinkoff, who is from Georgia Tech, played second base and hit second for the Ducks, finishing the game 1-for-3.
For highlights of the game, download here.
With the finale of the four-game homestand completed, the Mallards go on the road to face Waterloo for two games hosting Battle Creek for a two-game set, starting Tuesday.
Tuesday is Spectrum Brands Ryan Spilborghs’ Figurine Night (the first 1,000 fans 14 & under will receive the former Mallard and current major leaguer’s action figurine). Also, it is Bucky Book Night (first 1,000 families). Quench Gum Guaranteed Win Night, as the Mallards take on the Bombers. If the Mallards lose (yeah right), free tickets to a future game to all fans after the game.
Great tickets are still available! Order online at mallardsbaseball.com or call 246.4277.