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Mallards fall in bottom of 12th at La Crosse, 2-1

A Justin Toole single to center scored Randy Rundgren and broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the 12th and gave the La Crosse Loggers a 2-1 victory. Chris Sale earned the victory for the Loggers with seven innings of relief. Evan Kohli, the day’s starting designated hitter, took the loss after moving to the mound in the bottom of the 11th.

Despite knocking out 11 hits on the night the Mallards could only score one run, a fourth inning single by second baseman Joe De Pinto that scored center fielder Russell Harben. The Mallards also were unable to take advantage of four Loggers errors, which extended multiple innings. On the night the Mallards stranded 16 runners on base. The loss marked the third straight year that the Mallards dropped their opening road game of the season, and meant that the Loggers and Mallards split their season-opening home-and-home series.

The Loggers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead yesterday in Madison, but tonight it was the Mallards turn to score first after a 30 minute rain delay to start the game. The squad left five runners on through their first three at bats, but broke through in the fourth inning thanks to aggressive baserunning. With one out Harben singled to left, then advanced to second on a groundout by Kohli. Harben’s hustle to avoid the double play paid off, as he scored on a single to left field by De Pinto.

Mallards starter Matt Jansen, following in the footsteps of last night’s solid outing by Brandon Johnson, gave the team a good start on the hill. Pitching to his Purdue battery-mate Eric Nielsen, Jansen cruised through five innings and allowed just one hit and no runs, striking out five.

The Loggers threatened in the 6th after Scott Heitshusen relieved Jansen, with Cory Vaughn drawing a two-out walk and then stealing second, putting the tying run in scoring position. Heitshusen then struck out Derek Melton on a 2-2 pitch to get his defense into the dugout.

After the top of the Mallards order was retired in order in the top of the 7th, the Loggers again threatened the one-run Mallards lead. Chris Elder greeted new Mallards pitcher Kyle Heim’s first pitch of the season with a double that one-hopped the wall in left center. He then stole third, putting the tying run 90 feet away with no outs. After a walk to Andy Pasko, an 0-1 pitch to Kellen Hoime was in the dirt and got past Nielsen, and Elder crossed the plate to tie the game. Hoime reached on a fielding error by the Iowa hurler, who was then relieved by Nathan Kafka. Kafka put out the fire, striking out Brent Hottman and getting both Rundgren and P.J. Polk to ground out to second with two runners on.

Each team recorded a one-out double in the eighth, but neither team could plate a run to break the tie. The Mallards got a check-swing single by De Pinto in the ninth, but left him on base. In the bottom of the ninth, off yesterday’s winning pitcher Travis High, the Loggers had two on with two outs and Polk coming to the plate. He singled to shallow left field and Andy Pascoe tried to score from second, but was thrown out at the plate by Don Lambert to preserve the tie and send the game to extra innings.

Both teams had their chances in extra innings, but nobody could break the 1-1 score until Toole’s single with nobody out in the 12th.

De Pinto accounted for three of the Mallards 11 hits on the night, and Nielsen and shortstop Brandon Wikoff contributed two each. Nielsen also stole a base.

The Mallards travel to Brainerd for two games this weekend. Saturday’s game starts at 6:35 p.m. and Sunday’s series finale will begin at 5:35 p.m. The team then returns home for a two-game set against Mankato on Monday and Tuesday. Monday’s first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. and it is Pepsi Baseball Glove Night and Chet’s Car Magnet Schedule night at the “Duck Pond.”