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Published On: May 31st, 2008

Brainerd, MN – May 31, 2008. The Mallards offense exploded for 11 runs in Brainerd and came away with an 11-3 victory versus the Blue Thunder in a game that was shortened to seven innings due to fog. The leadoff man reached base for the Mallards in each of the first five innings, and the team took advantage of five Brainerd errors and drew eight walks on the night.

Josh Groves reached base four times to lead the offense. He recorded two hits, three RBIs, three runs and two stolen bases. Luke Stewart reached base three times, and Brandon Wikoff and Russell Harben each added three hits. Kyle Barry started on the mound and was effective through five innings and earned the win. He retired eight straight to end his outing after struggling in the first couple of innings.

For the second straight night the Mallards had to wait out a rain delay before starting the game, this one lasting one hour and ten minutes. Once the game got underway the Mallards went to the plate with a revamped batting order that got the ball rolling early. Shortstop Wikoff led off the game with a single to right field and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by third baseman Joe De Pinto. The game was then delayed another 15 minutes when more rain moved through the area. After the game resumed Wikoff stole third and the Mallards had two runners on with one out following a walk by first baseman Stewart. Wikoff then broke from third on a squeeze attempt by right fielder Don Lambert, but the bunt was popped up and Wikoff was easily doubled off to wipe out the Mallards threat.

Barry ran into some trouble in the Blue Thunder half of the first. Shortstop Adam Petterson drew a leadoff walk, but was erased on a fielder’s choice groundout to Wikoff. Following a flyout to centerfield Brandon Haveman, Barry also issued a free pass to catcher Joe Lincoln. The Blue Thunder capitalized when third baseman John Prato Matthews doubled over the outstretched glove of Haveman, scoring two. Barry managed to work out of the inning without any further damage with a strikeout to left fielder Michael McGuire.

After Blue Thunder starter Cole Moore escaped the first with no runs allowed, the Mallards were able to get some runs when they sent 9 to the plate in the second. Eric Nielsen, given the night off behind the plate and moved to designated hitter, struck out swinging but reached first when the third strike got away from the Blue Thunder catcher. Catcher Groves followed that up with a walk, and both runners advanced to third on a double steal. On a 3-1 pitch second baseman Harben ripped a liner to third, which hit off the glove of Matthews but did not get far enough away for Nielsen to score from third. Nielsen crossed the plate one batter later on a single to center by left fielder Evan Kohli. With the bases still loaded Wikoff laced the ball to left for a single and his second hit of the night, which scored Groves and Harben. The Mallards added one more before Moore got out of the inning.

The Mallards added a run in the third and two in the fourth, taking advantage of more walks and defensive miscues by the Blue Thunder. Harben had the big hit in the fourth, his third of the night, an RBI single to center that scored Lambert.

After struggling through the first two innings, Barry found his rhythm in the fourth. He struck out the first two Blue Thunder batters looking and got an easy groundout to second to end the inning.

The Mallards broke the game open in the fifth, thanks to a big hit by Groves. Wikoff recorded his third hit of the night to open the inning, and Stewart also singled to reach base for the third time in the game. After a walk to Nielsen, Groves blasted a two-out double to right center, scoring Wikoff, Stewart and Nielsen to give the Mallards a 10-3 lead. Groves later scored on a throwing error, his third run of the game.

With an eight-run lead, Barry again mowed down the Blue Thunder in order in the fifth. He was relieved by Kyle Heim, who followed Barry’s lead and set down Brainerd in order in the sixth. McGuire hit a slow roller to second with two outs in the sixth, but Harben charged hard and flipped the ball from his glove to Stewart at first to end the inning. McGuire was the 11th straight batter that Mallards pitching retired since a Matthews single in the third.

Heim rebounded after a tough outing last night and allowed just one base hit in his two innings of relief to close the game.

These two teams will square off one more time in Brainerd tomorrow night at 5:35 p.m. Catch all action on Madison’s Sports Radio 100.5 FM & keep checking back to Mallardsbaseball.com to see if Brainerd’s webcast technical difficulties have been resolved.

The Mallards will return home after the game and will face 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.”