Mankato, MN – June 30, 2008. The Mallards took advantage of four Mankato errors and a 4-for-5 performance by Rob Lyerly (Charlotte) to defeat the North Division-leading MoonDogs 8-6. The win moves the Mallards to 20-10 on the year and keeps them in a tie for first place in the South Division with three games remaining in the first half. The Mallards used five pitchers in the first game of a 10-game, 11-day road trip, with Andy Deain (Northern Illinois) getting the win on the night in a back-and-forth contest.
Lyerly had hits in each of his first four at bats and reached on an error in his fifth. He drove in three runs on the night. Drew Martin (NC State) reached base two times for the Mallards and knocked his first home run of the season in the sixth to continue his hot hitting.
The Mallards were set down in order in the first by MoonDogs right-hander Travis Smith. Scott Heitshusen (Kansas) took the mound for his fifth start of the season for the Mallards and gave up a leadoff double over Aaron Bray’s (Charlotte) head in center to Michael Rockett. But Heitshusen retired the next three he faced to come away unscathed.
The Mallards offense came alive in the top of the second, stringing together three straight base-hits to load the bases with nobody out. But Smith got Josh Groves (UW-Milwaukee) to foul out and got an inning-ending double play when Martin lined out to Bobby Munoz, who stepped on second base to double off Phil Gosselin (Virginia). Heitshusen worked through the MoonDogs in the second, striking out two and allowing one walk.
In the third the Mallards again put base runners on base, and this time were able to move them around and get on the scoreboard. Eric Nielsen (Purdue) drew a walk to start the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Bray. Joe Bonadonna (Illinois) followed with a walk and after a flyout by Brandon Wikoff (Illinois), Lyerly roped his second hit of the night, a double over the centerfielder’s head scoring Nielsen and Bonadonna to put the Mallards on top 2-0. They added another run on a single by Gosselin that drove in Lyerly to give Heitshusen a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the third.
Neither team mustered much offense until the bottom of the fourth, when the MoonDogs loaded the bases on two hit batters and a walk. It was Heitshusen’s turn to work out of the jam this time, matching Smith who got out of a no-out bases-loaded jam in the second. The Mallards right-hander got two flyouts and a strikeout to keep the Mallards lead intact going into the fifth. In the top of the fifth the Mallards added another run on a home run to center by Lyerly, his third hit and RBI of the night and second four-bagger of the season.
Heitshusen loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth for the second inning in a row, and was relieved after doing so by Deain. Deain retired the first two MoonDogs he faced, before allowing three of Heitshusen’s runs to score to cut the Mallards lead to 4-3.
In the top of the sixth Martin blasted a one-out solo home run to left field to add another insurance run for the Mallards. Deain retired the bottom of Mankato’s order with no trouble in the bottom of the sixth, and the Mallards scored three runs on three Mankato errors in the top of the seventh off new MoonDogs hurler Josh Castanza.
Wikoff reached on an error to start the seventh and Lyerly recorded his fourth hit of the night, a single to center that advanced Wikoff to third. As the ball was being fielded in center it got past Rockett and Wikoff scored on the play. Gosselin reached base for the second time of the night with a walk and later scored on a bases-loaded walk by Nielsen to put the Mallards ahead 8-3 after six-and-a-half.
Mankato was able to trim the lead with two in the seventh and one in the ninth, but Reed Woytek (Baylor) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the final frame to save the 8-6 Mallards win.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow night at 7:05 for the series finale, before the Mallards head to Battle Creek for two games Wednesday and Thursday to complete the first half. The Mallards will remain on the road until Friday, July 11, when they will return to the “Duck Pond” to play the Wisconsin Woodchucks.