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Mallards pound Blue Thunder 9-1; sweep series

Brainerd, MN – June 1, 2008. An eight-run eighth inning propelled the Mallards to a 9-1 victory and a series sweep against the Brainerd Blue Thunder Sunday night at Stewart C. Mills Field. Mallards pitching dominated the Blue Thunder in the game and the series. Bryan Earley (Lincoln Trail) and Travis High (NC State) combined to allow just four hits on the night.

Four Mallards contributed two hits each, and Brandon Haveman (Purdue) crossed the plate twice. Luke Stewart (UAB) drove in three runs. Joe De Pinto (USC) had his second multi-hit game of the season, and has at least one hit in each of his first four games. He too added an RBI.

The Mallards managed just one run off Blue Thunder starter Michael Lueck through seven innings, but it was when Lueck left the game that the Mallards lit up the scoreboard. Against John Pratto Matthews, who moved from designated hitter to pitcher in the eighth, the Mallards laced three singles in their first four batters of the inning. With the bases loaded and one out, center fielder Russell Harben (S. Alabama) drew a walk on an inside fastball, scoring Stewart. Matthews got a quick strikeout, but then walked in two straight runs and hit De Pinto with the bases still loaded to score the fourth Mallards run of the inning. The Blue Thunder made a pitching change, bringing in Matt Gottwalt to face Stewart in his second at bat of the inning. Stewart ripped a bases-clearing double, and scored on a single by the next batter Josh Groves (UW-Milw.). In the inning, the Mallards scored eight runs on five hits, and sent 13 batters to the plate.

As good as Lueck was in his seven innings of work, Mallards pitching was better. Earley fought control issues, but earned the win with five plus innings of work in which he allowed just three base hits. He gave way to High, who came on in the sixth.

The Mallards jumped out front in the top of the second. Left fielder Haveman singled to left field with one out, stole second and advanced to third on a groundout by Harben. Baylor freshman Don Lambert then stepped to the plate with two outs, looking for his first hit of the season in 15 at bats. The right fielder laced a single up the middle, for his first knock and RBI of the young season.

Earley worked through the first two innings allowing only two base hits and one walk. He had trouble finding the strike zone in the bottom of the third, but escaped with the Mallards 1-0 lead still intact. He hit Blue Thunder center fielder Jomar Tabor to start the inning, who was then caught stealing, and walked the next two batters to put two on with one out. After going 3-0 on first baseman Michael Gedman, he battled back to strike him out looking. Earley then fell behind 3-0 on catcher Joe Lincoln, got the count again to 3-2 but lost Lincoln on an outside fastball. With the bases now loaded on walks, Matthews, then the designated hitter, flew out to Haveman to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.

Pitching continued to shine for both teams in the middle innings. The Blue Thunder again threatened in the bottom of the fifth, but the Mallards flashed the leather to end the inning and keep their 1-0 lead. With a runner on first Lincoln hit a hard ground ball to third, and third baseman Groves made a backhanded play to start the 5-4-3 inning-ending double play. First baseman Stewart dug out the throw at first base to finish the play.

High entered the game on the mound for the Mallards in the sixth, his third appearance on the season. He allowed just one hit and one unearned run to finish the game, striking out four.

The win improves the Mallards record to 3-1 on the season ahead of a home series against Mankato on Monday and Tuesday. Both games start at 7:05 p.m., and each game features promotions at the “Duck Pond.” Monday is Pepsi Baseball Glove Night, Chet’s Car Care Magnet Schedule Night and Bucky Book Night. Tuesday at the “Duck Pond” is Steve Schmitt Commemorative Budweiser Pint Glass Night.

Great seats are still available and can be purchased online at Mallardsbaseball.com or by calling 608.246.4277. Which day will you experience Mallards baseball?