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Mallards to open NWL Championship Series at home Friday at 7:05

Madison, WI – August 13, 2008. The Madison Mallards advanced to the 2008 Northwoods League Championship Series for the first time since 2005 with a 14-5 win over the Wisconsin Woodchucks Wednesday night at the “Duck Pond.” The 14-run, 15-hit offensive explosive was helped along by home runs by Luke Stewart (UAB) and Drew Martin (NC State) and three hits by Aaron Bray (Charlotte). Matt Jansen (Purdue) earned the win, while Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star Bobby Pritchett took the loss for the first time against Madison this season. The Mallards will now take tomorrow off before hosting game one of the championship series Friday night against Thunder Bay.

Six Mallards had multiple-hit games, and four different Mallards scored at least two runs. Troy Frazier was 3-for-4 for the Woodchucks with a home run. Home runs by Stewart and Martin gave the Mallards their third multiple-home run game of the season and second in the last two nights. Each of the four innings that Wisconsin scored a run in the game, the Mallards answered in the very next frame.

Matt Jansen (Purdue), pitching for the first time against the Wisconsin this season and for the first time since August 2, retired the Woodchucks in order in the top of the first on just 10 pitches. The Mallards got a one-out double by Joe Bonadonna (Illinois), who moved to third on a groundout by Brandon Wikoff (Illinois), but Woodchucks starter Bobby Pritchett got Rob Lyerly (Charlotte) to fly out harmlessly to center field to end the inning.

In the top of the second the Woodchucks got a pair of baserunners without the benefit of the ball leaving the infield. Frazier started things off with an infield single to second base, and Matt Gantner followed with a well-executed bunt down the third base line that put two runners on first and second with nobody out. Terrance Jackson flew out to right field, with Frazier tagging up on the play and advancing to third base with one out. Jansen then got Chris Slater to ground the ball to third base, but Martin could not relay the ball to home plate in time to tag out Frazier, who scored on the play to put the Woodchucks ahead 1-0. But the Woodchucks would score no more and left the bases loaded, as Jansen struck out Kyle Bubak for the second out and Jeff Cowan to retire the side after a walk to Carson Vitale.

The one-run lead would not hold for long, as the Mallards continued to get their offense from the long ball. Martin blasted a 1-1 pitch from Pritchett deep to left field for a two-run home run to give the Mallards a 2-1 lead. Phil Gosselin (Virginia), who doubled off the left field wall to start the inning, came around to score on Martin’s round-tripper.

Wisconsin took advantage of two walks and two sacrifices to tie the game at two heading into the bottom of the third. Chris Wade and Brent Weaver drew back-to-back walks to start the inning, and Frazier followed with a sacrifice bunt to move them to second and third. Wade scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by Gantner, which also moved Weaver to third base. But Jansen escaped the inning with a groundball back to him and an easy underhand flip to Josh Groves (UW-Milwaukee) to retire Jackson at first.

In the bottom of the third the Mallards again had an answer to the Woodchucks pushing a run across, as Bray led off the inning with a single up the middle, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and moved the rest of the way around the bases on groundouts by Bonadonna and Wikoff to put the Mallards back on top 3-2 after three frames.

Jansen settled down in the top of the fourth and faced four batters, allowing just a two-out walk. The long ball did the trick again in the bottom of the fourth for the Mallards, as with one away Stewart bombed a first-pitch fastball from Pritchett to right-center for his eighth home run of the season and second in two days. The eight home runs is a new Mallards career record.

The Woodchucks coaxed a walk from Jansen in the fifth, but again the left-hander worked around it and kept the 4-2 Mallards advantage intact. Madison added one more off Pritchett in the bottom of the fifth, thanks to a pair of costly errors by Cowan at third base.

Wisconsin got within one run thanks to a two-run sixth that ultimately drove Jansen from the game. Kyle Heim (Iowa) entered in the sixth and ended up pitching the rest of the game and squashing multiple Woodchucks rallies.

The big Mallards inning was the sixth, as they scored six runs on five hits and an error and sent 10 men to the plate. Groves had an RBI double down the left field line and Lyerly had a two-run double that scored Bonadonna and Eric Nielsen (Purdue). The sixth inning drove Pritchett from the game and gave the Mallards a lead they would not relinquish with Heim on the mound.

Madison also added three more in the bottom of the seventh off Clint Tilford to bring the game to the final score of 14-5. Bray’s third hit of the night drove in a run and he came around to score on a wild pitch later in the inning. Wikoff also added an RBI single.

Heim continued to control the game in his fourth inning of work, and he ended up earning the save because he finished the game while throwing at least three innings. He retired the Woodchucks in order in the eighth and worked around two baserunners in the ninth to wrap things up and advance the Mallards to the Northwoods League Championship Series, where they will face Thunder Bay.

Friday night’s championship series opener at the “Duck Pond” will be at 7:05 p.m. The two teams will then travel to Thunder Bay for game two on Saturday and game three if necessary on Sunday. The Mallards will be sponsoring a fan bus to travel to Thunder Bay. Check back at Mallardsbaseball.com for all the details about the trip!