Mallards force decisive game three with 4-3 victory over Thunder Bay in game two

Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada – August 16, 2008. The Madison Mallards defeated the Thunder Bay Border Cats in dramatic fashion 4-3 Saturday night in game two of the Northwoods League Championship Series at Port Arthur Stadium in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The win forces a decisive winner-take-all game three in the championship series Sunday night at 6:05 p.m. (CST) from Thunder Bay. The Mallards held a 4-1 lead after four-and-a-half thanks to Joe Yermal’s (Charlotte) solid start on the mound, and three relievers hung on to preserve the one-run victory. Yermal earned the win with five innings of four-hit baseball, and Danny Rosenbaum took the loss for the Border Cats.

Brandon Wikoff (Illinois) had two hits for the Mallards, and Joe Bonadonna (Illinois) scored two of the team’s four runs on the night. Jon Kelton hit a pair of home runs off Yermal to give the Border Cats some early runs, and Josh Ashenbrenner was 3-for-4 with a run scored.

Thunder Bay scored first in the bottom of the first, when Kelton homered to right field with one out. The Mallards went down quietly in the first couple of innings and scored two runs in the top of the third off Rosenbaum to take a 2-1 lead. Rob Lyerly (Charlotte) reached on a costly dropped ball in left field by Kelton that allowed Don Lambert (Baylor) to score from third. Josh Groves (UW-Milwaukee) added an RBI single two batters later for the second run of the inning.

In the top of the fifth the Mallards added two more on two hits to make the score 4-1. Kelton hit his second home run to lead off the sixth inning and after a walk to Derek Wiley, Yermal was relieved by Nathan Kafka (Minnesota State), who got the final three outs to retire the Border Cats in the sixth.

Kyle Heim (Iowa) relieved Kafka with one out in the seventh and got a popout to the catcher and a strikeout to leave two Border Cats runners on base.

The Mallards went down 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth, and the Mallards held on to a 4-2 lead after seven-and-a-half. Heim got two quick outs in the bottom of the eighth, but gave up a single, a wild pitch and a walk to put runners on first and second with two outs. Andy Deain (Northern Illinois) entered the game in place of Heim, and gave up an RBI single to Ryan Terry that scored Ashenbrenner from second base to trim the Mallards lead to a slim 4-3. However, Deain put out the first with a strikeout looking to send the game to the ninth.

Madison got a pair of two-out baserunners, but Phil Gosselin (Virginia) struck out swinging to end the inning. The ninth inning brought plenty of drama, as Mike O’Neill flew out to center field before Kelton walked. Deain and Eric Nielsen (Purdue) ran into some trouble connecting on pitches, as Kelton moved to third on a passed ball and a wild pitch. Wiley then drove a ball to deep left field, which looked like a walk-off, championship-winning, two-run home run, but the ball landed foul and Deain got Wiley to strike out swinging for the second out. The right-hander from Northern Illinois then struck out Nate Woods to end the game and force a game three Sunday night.

First pitch on Sunday is set for 6:05 p.m. (CST) from Thunder Bay. Alex Rivers (Santa Clara) will start on the mound for the Mallards against Border Cats right-hander Michael Raymond.