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By: Michael Schroeder, PR Intern

The record books underwent a thorough revision in 2008 for the Madison Mallards, as huge crowds propelled the team to a new single-season attendance record and three major on-field records were broken. A total of 213,006 Mallards fans stormed through the gates during the ‘08 season, which eclipsed the previous attendance mark set in 2007. Rob Lyerly (Charlotte, pictured left) blasted 19 doubles and had 48 RBIs to break the single-season records of 15 and 46, respectively. Phil Gosselin (Virginia) legged out seven triples throughout the course of the season, and with eight home runs in 2008 Luke Stewart (UAB) became the new Mallards career home run leader.

These notable individual accomplishments helped power the team back into the Northwoods League postseason in 2008 after a one-year hiatus. The Mallards battled the Wisconsin Woodchucks throughout the first half of the season, dueling with the squad from Wausau until the very last days of the first half. Thanks in part to a seven-game winning streak near the end of June, the Mallards were in position to capture the South Division first-half championship. And that is exactly what they did, sweeping a doubleheader at Battle Creek on July 3 behind excellent starting pitching to capture the first-half title. Alex Rivers (Santa Clara) pitched a seven-inning complete game in game one, allowing just five hits, no earned runs and striking out nine, and Gabriel Shaw (Louisville) worked five innings of three-hit baseball and struck out seven to win game two for the Mallards.

July saw the Northwoods League All-Star Game come to Madison for the first time since 2003. The festivities stretched over two days, featuring a fan-fest, home run derby and an all-star game between the Military All-Stars and the Home Talent League All-Stars on Sunday night, before the Northwoods League All-Star Game was played on Monday night in front of a national audience on ESPNU. The Mallards were represented in front of the hometown Madison crowd by pitchers Shaw and Matt Jansen (Purdue), as well as Lyerly and catcher Eric Nielsen (Purdue). The South Division was managed by Mallards Manager C.J. Thieleke. A new All-Star Game record crowd of 5,357 witnessed the South Division snap a three-year losing streak in the midseason classic by the score of 8-4. Jansen started on the hill for the South Division and struck out the side in his one inning of work.

As the calendar flipped from July to August, the Mallards found themselves preparing for the postseason run. Wisconsin captured the second-half South Division title, setting up a first-round playoff matchup with the Mallards with each team having won four regular-season meetings. Just like in the series against Battle Creek at the end of the first half, the Mallards pitching staff shined against the Woodchucks in the playoffs. Rivers took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of game one in Wausau and finished the game with seven-and-two-thirds strong innings, allowing just two hits and striking out 10 in a 4-1 Mallards triumph. Gosselin hit a three-run home run and Stewart added a solo shot to power the Mallards offense. The series shifted to Madison for game two the next night, where the Mallards clinched the South Division Championship with a 14-5 victory. Stewart homered for the second night in a row and Drew Martin (NC State) also left the yard for the Mallards, who received three-and-two-thirds innings of stellar relief from Kyle Heim (Iowa) to seal the win.

The 2008 Northwoods League Championship Series was a showdown between the Mallards and the Thunder Bay Border Cats. The two teams split four meetings during the regular season, with each team winning twice on the other team’s home field. The matchup didn’t disappoint this time around either, as all three games were decided by one run, with the Border Cats winning the decisive game three to take the championship series two-games-to-one. Thunder Bay won game one in Madison 1-0, but the Mallards evened the series north of the border with a 4-3 win in game two. Madison held a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning of game three, but the Border Cats scrapped across three runs to take the lead 6-5 heading into the ninth. The Mallards couldn’t get anything going in the top of the ninth, and Thunder Bay hoisted the championship trophy on their home field.

Away from the field, fans at the “Duck Pond” were treated to a special season as usual. Eddie Munster (Butch Patrick), “The Beav” (Jerry Mathers) and Potsie (Anson Williams) highlighted Friday night B-list celebrity appearances, and 250 lucky fans got to earn a free Duck Blind ticket for eating a beetle when the Mallards hosted the Alexandria Beetles on July 17. The Mallards received national television attention on SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight and ESPNEWS when actor Gary Coleman stepped to the plate to lead off the game for the Mallards on August 1.

Also, Maynard’s Slide In proved to be a very popular addition to the “Duck Pond” in 2008, featuring fresh, locally produced food items such as burgers, cheese curds, and onion rings.

It was another spectacular summer at the “Duck Pond” in 2008, and the Mallards are already looking forward to taking the field in 2009. See you at the ballpark!

Published On: September 18th, 2008