The first-place Mallards finish an incredible second half and 2007 regular season the next four evenings at the Duck Pond with two-game series against Duluth and Eau Claire.
Madison has tied the all-time mark in Northwoods League history with Green Bay for collecting 15 wins in a row and look to break that record against the Huskies Thursday. Duluth is first place in the North Division by just 2.5 games over Mankato and three over Alexandria. However, the Mallards will be looking to Alexandria for a little support, as the Beetles host Eau Claire Thursday. The Express lost the first-place spot to the Mallards Wednesday, falling to Green Bay 6-5 and now sit a half-game back of Madison.
Eryk McConnell will attempt to keep the Mallards on top, as he gets the start Thursday. Right-handed throwing McConnell is 4-2 with a 4.38 ERA and has struck out 25 batters in 39 innings pitched. McConnell has won two straight starts and has allowed just one earned run during that span, including 12 strikeouts in 15 innings of work. This will be McConnell’s first appearance at Warner Park since July 1.
Huskies right-hander Mike Nihsen is the probable starter for Duluth, and he enters Thursday 4-3 with a 3.83 ERA. Nihsen leads the Huskies with 51.2 innings pitched, and he has struck out 32 batters this year. Nihsen’s last appearance came August 4 versus Alexandria. He earned the victory that day going seven innings of work, allowing two earned runs and striking out six in the effort.
Madison and Duluth are meeting for just the second time Thursday, and both clubs have not seen each other since their June 28-29 series. However, Duluth will be seeing a completely different ball club than what they witnessed back in late June. The Huskies lead the NWL in pitching with a 2.90 ERA, and against the Mallards, they hold a 2.50 ERA.
Do not expect much change in the Mallards lineup, as the one through six batters have been red hot in the month of August. Infielder Randy Molina is now fourth in the NWL in hitting with a .333 batting average. Molina has hit safely in five of his last six, going 9-for-25 (.360) with a homer, three doubles, and nine runs batted in.
Bobby Hubbard is tied for first in the NWL with 42 runs batted in and he enters Thursday on a five-game hitting streak going 9-for-19 (.474) with a home run and six RBIs during the stretch. Jordan Comadena is third in the league with a .455 on-base percentage and is second in runs scored at 51.
Huskies infielder Chase Austin leads his club with a .328 average with 20 runs scored and seven doubles. Austin and his fellow infielder Joey Bonadonna, who is second in the NWL with 42 stolen bases, could cause trouble for Mallards bullpen pitching, who have not allowed a run in the last three games.
Baseball will be fun to follow in Madison as hopeful Mallards fans will be seeing what Alexandria can do with Eau Claire in the next couple of days just before the Express come to the Duck Pond for a first and second place showdown.