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Mallards see late lead, championship evaporate, fall 6-5 to Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada – August 17, 2008. The Madison Mallards fell to the Thunder Bay Border Cats in the third and final game of the 2008 Northwoods League Championship Series Sunday night in heartbreaking fashion, 6-5, as the Mallards saw a late two-run lead evaporate when the Border Cats scored three in the bottom of the eighth. The Mallards took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth, but the Border Cats scored three runs off Matt Jansen (Purdue) on one hit and a pair of errors to win their first championship since 2005. Jansen ended up taking the loss, and the win went to Border Cats reliever Brett Holland. Jimmy Stanley pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save of the series. All three of the games in the championship series were decided by just one run.

The Mallards got three hits and two runs scored from Brandon Wikoff (Illinois). Rob Lyerly (Charlotte) was 2-for-5 with three runs driven in. Trent Soares (Fresno State) added a pair of hits, including a home run in the eighth inning for the fifth run of the game for the Mallards. Derek Wiley was the star of the game for the Border Cats, going 2-for-5 with three runs driven in. He had the go-ahead run in the decisive eighth inning, a single that drove in Connor Lind.

The Border Cats led 3-1 until the seventh inning, when the Mallards broke through for three runs off Holland to take a 4-3 lead. Eric Nielsen (Purdue) started things off with a single, and with one out Holland loaded the bases on an error and a walk. Lyerly then singled, scoring Nielsen and Joe Bonadonna (Illinois), and tried to advance to second when he caught the pitcher napping at the end of the play. Lyerly was thrown out at second, but Wikoff had the presence of mind to scamper home to give the Mallards the one-run advantage.

Jansen had little trouble with the Border Cats in the bottom half of that inning, and the Mallards held the 4-3 lead entering the eighth. Soares added an insurance run with a home run to left-center to make the score 5-3.

But Thunder Bay battled all the way back off Jansen and reliever Kyle Heim (Iowa) to wrap up the championship on their home field. Stanley got two quick outs in the ninth before Wikoff singled, but Lyerly could not drive him in and flew out to center field to end the game.

The Madison Mallards will host the third annual MLB Alumni Game on August 23 at 6:05 p.m. at the “Duck Pond.” Headlining the event is Chicago Cub Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, a three-time All-Star and winner of the 1971 Cy Young Award. Jenkins, along with a host of other former big league stars (listed below) will play a 7-inning game against former Mallards, including Mike Springsteen (2001), D.J. Roshone (2003-04), and Jordan Comadena (2005-07).