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Mallards lose tough game in bottom of the ninth

Eau Claire, WI – July 30, 2008. A two-out single to right field by Robbie Knight in the bottom of the ninth scored Nolan Fadness from second base and propelled the Eau Claire Express to a 6-5 victory over the Madison Mallards Wednesday night in Eau Claire. Nathan Kafka (Minnesota State) relieved Andy Deain (Northern Illinois) to start the ninth and got two quick flyouts before running into trouble and ultimately taking the loss, dropping his record to 0-2 on the season. The loss was the 10th in the last 11 games for the Mallards and moves their record to 8-16 in the second half.

Don Lambert (Baylor) had two hits for the Mallards, including his first career home run, and drove in two runs. Eau Claire had two-hit games from Knight and Ryan Lee. Kyle Heim (Iowa) made his second start against the Express in one week and went four-and-two-thirds, giving up six hits and four earned runs. The Express received a solid outing from Robert Kilcrease, who worked six innings and gave up six hits while striking out six Mallards.

Madison jumped out quickly to a 2-0 lead after two batters, when Joe Bonadonna (Illinois) singled and Lambert homered to right-center. Kilcrease settled down and got the next three Mallards to end the inning. Eau Claire even things up in the bottom half of the first, scoring twice on a pair of hits off Heim.

Eau Claire scored again in the bottom of the third to take a 3-2 lead. Russ Hopkins singled to start things off and advanced to second on a passed ball. He came around to score when Knight reached on a fielding error by Brandon Wikoff (Illinois) at shortstop. They increased their lead to 4-2 after four.

In the top of the fifth Madison scored two more to tie the game at four. Drew Martin (NC State) tripled down the right-field line and scored when Wikoff drew a bases-loaded walk. Rob Lyerly, the league’s leading hitter entering today’s game, reached on a fielding error by Joe Bonfe at third that allowed Eric Nielsen (Purdue) to score to tie the game.

Each team scored another run, and the game was tied at five heading into the bottom of the ninth. Kafka entered the game and ended up giving up the game-winning hit, a single to right field by Knight that scored Fadness. Ryan Otto relieved Kilcrease in the seventh and shutdown the Mallards for the rest of the game, allowing just four hits and one unearned run.

The two teams finish the series tomorrow night at 6:35. The Mallards will then return home for the start of a four-game homestand on Friday night. It is Covance “80s Night” at the “Duck Pond!” Come out for a chance to relive the glory days and meet Gary Coleman! The first 1,000 fans will receive Mallards slinkies, courtesy of Covance.