Madison, WI – March 23, 2008. Cue the organ; Mallards baseball is right around the corner and we’re excited to make our first major announcement of 2008 in regards to naming the collegiate athletes who will become Madison’s hometown heroes this summer. Headlining the list of returnees includes two Wisconsin-born prized recruits in right-handed pitchers Craig Meier (Edgewood H.S.) and Nathan Kafka (Denmark H.S.). Both will be heating up the “Duck Pond” with screaming fastballs and table-dropping curveballs at the expense of opposing batters. Read on to see which other players are returning for another summer in Madison! (In alphabetical order, by last name) The excitement begins on Thursday, May 29 at 7:05 p.m. as the Mallards look to buzz-saw the La Crosse Loggers for an Opening Day victory.
Russell Harben, OF, Junior, South Alabama. The versatile and very athletic Harben gave Coach Thieleke an array of lineup options in 2007, starting 23 games at shortstop, 18 in center field, and 11 at second base. An important piece of the Mallards running game, Harben will be looked upon to steal bases after being successful in 11 of 12 attempts last season. Hampered by injuries to start the 2008 collegiate season, Harben has only played in three games for the Jaguars.
(Years with the Mallards: 2007, ‘08)
Scott Heitshusen, P, Sophomore, Michigan St. Heitshusen never hit the heralded “Freshman” wall and proved he could handle a serious workload (52 IP) and throw a lot of strikes (40 K’s). A transfer from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas a year ago, Heitshusen has thrown 7.2 innings in four appearances for his new Spartan squad.
Travis High, P, Junior, NC State. The right-hander was an integral part of the Mallards core relief staff last season, posting a 2-2 record and 3.72 ERA in 19.1 innings of work. This season for the Wolfpack, High is 1-0 in 6.2 innings of relief.
Nathan Kafka, P, Junior, Minnesota State University-Mankato. Kafka was a late addition to the 2007 Mallards, signing on July 16 for the team’s stretch run. The right-handed side-winding pitcher was extremely effective in late inning situations, as was evident by his 2-0 record and 2.03 ERA in eight appearances. Kafka, a native of Denmark, WI, joins the Minnesota State baseball program after spending the past two years playing under the tutelage of Head Coach Mike Davenport and Assistant Coach Thieleke at MATC.
Craig Meier, P, Junior, UW-Milwaukee. An Edgewood High School alum and former UW football scout team quarterback, Meier will return for his third season as a Mallard. Meier’s numbers last season look all the more impressive (1-1, 3.09 ERA, Opp. Batting Avg.233) considering his relief appearances often came with runners already in scoring position. In 24 innings of work this year for the Panthers, Meier is 1-2 with a 5.62 ERA.
(2006, ’07, ’08)
Eric Nielsen, C, Junior, Purdue. After hitting a blistering .346 in June to begin his first year in Madison, Nielsen was named to the NWL Mid-Season All-Star team. He had 18 RBI’s and a .350 on-base percentage in 43 games as the team’s starting catcher. In 12 games for the Boilermakers this season, Nielsen is hitting .350.
Jim Sajewich, P, Junior, Illinois State. The 6’3, 260 lb right-hander Sajewich is by far the most imposing pitcher Coach Thieleke will send to the mound this season. He’ll look to improve upon a 2-3 record and 4.29 ERA in 50.1 innings pitched in 2007 for the Mallards. Sajewich is 1-1 with 21 strikeouts in 25 innings for the Redbirds this spring.
Brian Smith, P, Junior, Northern Illinois. In his second season with the Mallards, Smith posted his most successful pitching campaign with a 6-2 record and 3.31 ERA in 61.1 innings of work. The Chicago Ridge, IL native now has nine wins during his career in Madison, placing him only one behind franchise-leader Mike Creevy (Xavier). Smith has yet to make a start for the Huskies this season as he battles an arm injury.
(2006, ’07, ’08)
Brandon Wikoff, INF, Sophomore, Illinois. Wikoff will be the Mallards everyday shortstop after hitting .323 with 14 RBI’s and 42 runs scored for the team last season. The consistent Peoria, IL native also posted hitting streaks of 16, 8, and 6 games that helped raise his batting average from .231 on June 18 to a robust .337 on August 7 and earned him a selection on the Northwoods League Post-Season All-Star team. He was especially effective away from the “Duck Pond,” hitting a healthy .343 on the road. This spring for the Illini Wikoff is hitting .412 with a .448 on-base percentage and team-high 12 RBI’s.
Stay tuned to Mallardsbaseball.com as we announce all of the new faces who will be providing exciting baseball action for you this summer!
Opening Day is only 66 days away and counting! There is no better time than now to reward your employees, impress clients, or party with some friends by reserving a suite at the “Duck Pond” this summer! Learn more by calling us at 246.4277!
Group tickets are on sale and single-game tickets will be available for purchase on April 26 at 9:00 a.m.
The Mallards open its eighth season at the “Duck Pond” against the La Crosse Loggers on Thursday, May 29 at 7:05 p.m. Be sure to come early as we have a plethora of activities planned when the gates open at 5:30 p.m.!