Madison, WI – May 29, 2008. After opening night festivities at a rainy “Duck Pond”, including the unveiling of a statue commemorating the franchise’s One Millionth fan, the Mallards got down to business and defeated the La Crosse Loggers 11-4, in front of 4,435 faithful onlookers.
The Mallards took advantage of nine free passes issued by Loggers hurlers and came away with the victory despite only mustering seven hits on the night. The leadoff batter reached base in five of the Mallards eight times at the plate and four of the last five innings.
The Mallards offense was paced by catcher Eric Nielsen’s three hits and right fielder Brandon Haveman’s bases-clearing triple in the fifth that put the game out of reach with a score of 9-3. Second baseman Joe De Pinto scored twice and drove in two. Brandon Johnson started on the hill for Madison and pitched four innings, allowing just one earned run while striking out three. Travis High entered in relief in the fifth and went two near-perfect innings, allowing one base hit. He earned his first win on the season.
The Loggers opened the scoring in the first inning, thanks to a defensive miscue by the Mallards. Justin Toole singled and advanced to third on a double by Cory Vaughn, the son of former Milwaukee Brewers slugger Greg Vaughn. He then scored on a passed ball while Vaughn advanced to third and later crossed the plate on a single by Derek Melton.
The Mallards were retired in order in the bottom of the first by Loggers starter Wade Kapteyn, but then soon found their rhythm. With Kapteyn laboring in the second, the Mallards loaded the bases with three walks and then De Pinto walked, accounting for the first run on the season for the Mallards. Nielsen led off the third with a single that fell in front of a diving left fielder and later scored on a bases-loaded walk by Russell Harben. Then it was LaCrosse’s turn to make mistakes defensively. Mallards shortstop Brandon Wikoff scored on a passed ball and third baseman Josh Groves crossed the plate on a wild pitch.
The Loggers came back and threatened in the fourth when Randy Rundgren led off the inning and reached on a throwing error by Johnson. They loaded the bases, but Vaughn hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
In the bottom of the fifth the rain picked up at the “Duck Pond,” leaving fans scrambling to find shelter beneath the overhangs. The Mallards again loaded the bases on walks, and Haveman made sure his teammates’ patience paid off and cleared the bases with a triple down the right field line.
Each team added a run in the seventh to finish the scoring for the night. Kyle Barry and Andy Deain pitched the final three innings for the Mallards and allowed only a combined three hits.
These two teams square off again tomorrow, this time at La Crosse. The Mallards then travel on to Brainerd for two games Saturday and Sunday, before returning home to the “Duck Pond” for a 7:05 p.m. tilt against Mankato on Monday.