Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada – June 25, 2008. The Mallards continued their solid play at the right time, defeating the Thunder Bay Border Cats 7-5 in a rain-shortened game to earn the series sweep. The Mallards have now won four straight and move to two games behind first-place Wisconsin with eight to play in the first half. The two squads played just five-and-a-half innings tonight, as rain moved through the area and the field became unplayable after a 77-minute rain delay.
Luke Stewart (UAB) rebounded nicely from a couple of rough games, going 2-for-3 with a run. Josh Groves (UW-Milwaukee) was also 2-for-3 with two driven in. Brandon Wikoff (Illinois) knocked in a pair of runs as well. Brandon Johnson (Western Carolina) earned the win with two innings of relief.
In a sharp contrast to last night’s game, when the only run was scored in the 10th inning, both teams got on the scoreboard early and often tonight. Madison started it off in the top of the first when Phil Gosselin (Virginia) singled home a run off Border Cats starter Brett Brach, his fourth RBI in as many games. But the Cats pawed their way back in the bottom half of the inning, getting a run on a double by Derek Wiley that scored Danny Benedetti, who reached on a Groves error.
Brach set down the Mallards in order in the second, and the Border Cats added another tally off Scott Heitshusen (Kansas) in the bottom half of the inning after another Mallards error. The hit parade continued in the third, as the Mallards plated two more to take a 3-2 lead before Heitshusen gave up three in the bottom half of the third, his last inning of work. Brach was removed after the fourth inning, in which he gave up two more runs on two hits to tie the game at five.
The scoring in bunches continued for the Mallards, as they put up two runs for the third straight inning in the fifth off new pitcher Garrett Groom. Groves singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second on an error. Eric Nielsen (Purdue) grounded a ball back to Groom, who threw to third to try to get Groves. Groves beat the throw and Nielsen reached. Don Lambert (Baylor) then walked to load the bases, before Drew Martin (NC State) grounded the ball to the second baseman, who threw home to force out Groves. With the bases still loaded, Aaron Bray (Charlotte) stepped up and reached base on a fielder’s choice, scoring Nielsen. Wikoff followed with a single that drove in the second Mallards run of the inning.
Johnson allowed just one hit in the fifth to hold the 7-5 Mallards lead. The Mallards left two on in the top of the sixth after a Stewart double and a Groves walk, and the game headed to the bottom of the sixth. Andy Deain (Northern Illinois) relieved Johnson and allowed a leadoff walk before the rain came and the field had to be covered. The grounds crew tried to get the field ready to go after the rain delay, but to no avail.
The Mallards return home tomorrow and Friday for two games against Brainerd. Thursday is MAYSA Mascot Soccer Game sponsored by Quench Gum & Break Away Sports. Come see local mascots battle for supremacy!
On Friday the Mallards will welcome “Potsie” Anson Williams from Happy Days fame to the ballpark! Williams will sign free autographs throughout the game! It is also Manager C.J. Thieleke Budweiser Pint Glass Night (first 750 fans 21 & older). Great seats still remain for both games against the Blue Thunder. Visit mallardsbaseball.com or call 608.246.4277 to buy tickets.