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Five-run Huskies seventh does in Mallards, team drops third straight 8-3

Madison, WI – June 20, 2008. A five-run seventh inning by the Duluth Huskies proved to be the difference, as the Mallards lost the series finale 8-3 at the “Duck Pond” in front of 6,231 fans. The sweep by the Huskies marks the second time the Mallards were swept in a series this season. The Mallards were forced to use three pitchers in the decisive seventh inning, which came on the heels of a three-run Mallards sixth to give them a 3-1 lead. The loss was the team’s third straight and fourth in the last five games, and dropped their record to 12-9 overall.

Charlotte teammates Aaron Bray and Rob Lyerly had two hits a piece for the Mallards offense, which had eight on the night. Chris House went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run for the Huskies, and Andrew Durden had the identical stat line. The two teams combined to leave 21 runners on base.

The first four innings went by with each team managing just two hits. Bray led off the game for the Mallards with a single but would make it no further than second base as the Mallards left two aboard in the home half of the first. The Huskies got a leadoff single in the second by Todd Baumgartner but could not do anything with it. In the third they got two runners on with two away thanks to a single and a walk, but Alex Rivers (Santa Clara) got his third strikeout of the inning to strand the runners. Lyerly blasted a triple to the wall in the third for the second Mallards hit of the night, but he too would be stranded as Josh Groves (UW-Milwaukee) flew out to end the inning.

But the Huskies struck first in Rivers’ fifth inning of work. Collin Kuhn walked and advanced to second on a single by Ryan Ampleman. Andy Burns laid down a bunt that Rivers fielded and threw to third to get the lead runner. With runners again on first and second, House doubled down the right field line, which scored Ampleman. Burns also tried to score on the play but was cut down by a solid relay to the plate. House stole third base and Robbie Price walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch, putting runners on second and third. But Rivers got Thomas Nichols to fly out to center to end the inning with the Huskies on top 1-0.

It looked like the Mallards were going to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth, but they were again plagued by an inability to come up with a big hit and left two aboard. Drew Martin (NC State) drew a lead-off walk and went to second on Bray’s second single of the game. They both advanced 90 feet to second and third on a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Wikoff (Illinois). However Lyerly struck out and Groves flew out to end the inning and strand the sixth and seventh Mallards runners of the night.

Travis High (NC State) relieved Rivers in the sixth, working around a couple of baserunners thanks to a pickoff at first to get out of the inning. In the bottom of the sixth the Mallards finally took advantage of their baserunners. Phil Gosselin (Virginia), Luke Stewart (UAB) and Russell Harben (South Alabama) all reached to start the inning, with Harben’s single coming off Huskies relief pitcher Brant Combs. Eric Nielsen (Purdue) then hit a groundball to the third baseman, who fumbled it and ended up throwing it away, causing both Gosselin and Stewart to score to give the Mallards a 2-1 lead. Martin came up with one away and reached on a fielder’s choice that was enough to get Harben in from third. Bray struck out to end the inning, but the Mallards put three on the board to take a 3-1 lead into the seventh.

The two-run Mallards lead was short lived, as the Huskies scored five runs in the top of the seventh off Andy Deain (Northern Illinois) and Bryan Hamilton (Charlotte). Deain retired the first batter he faced on strikes, but let the next three runners reach before he was relieved by Hamilton who did not fare well in his Mallards debut. He faced four batters and recording no outs, allowing two runs. Nathan Kafka (Minnesota State) followed after Deain and Hamilton combined to allow seven straight Huskies to reach and put out the fire with a strikeout and a flyout to center. The Huskies scored five runs on four hits in the inning for a 6-3 lead. They would add two more in the ninth off Brandon Johnson (Western Carolina) to get to the final score of 8-3. Deain took the loss for the Mallards, and the win went to Huskies left-hander Brant Combs.

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Up next for the Mallards is a showdown with first-place Wisconsin at the “Duck Pond” Saturday and Sunday. Saturday is Turn-Back-The-Clock Night, as the Mallards will wear authentic 1993 Madison Muskies jerseys. The first 1,000 fans will receive free Muskies mesh caps. Sunday will mark the end of the Mallards’ unprecedented 14-game homestand and will be Summit Credit Union Play More Catch Night. Fans can play catch in the outfield following the game! The first 1,000 adult/kid combos will receive commemorative baseballs. The Mallards will also wear camouflage uniforms! Come out to the “Duck Pond” to cheer on the Mallards as they battle the first-place Wisconsin Woodchucks! Seats are still available and can be purchased on mallardsbaseball.com or by calling 608.246.4277.