Matt Morgan (Purdue) pitched eight shutout innings and Ben Long (UW-Milwaukee) went 4-for-4 as the Mallards beat the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers 8-0 at Stewart C. Mills Field Sunday.
While the game featured a pitching duel between Morgan and Brainerd pitcher Joey Van Cleave (Santa Rosa Junior College) for the first seven innings, the Mallards broke open the game in the eighth and ninth innings, when they scored six combined runs to put the game out of reach.
For the fourth consecutive game, outfielder Kurtis Muller (Iowa) led off the game with a base hit. After Joe De Pinto (USC) sacrificed him over to third base, second baseman Adam McClain (Memphis) hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the first run, giving the Mallards an early 1-0 lead.
In the fourth inning, the Mallards had another chance to score when Channing reached on a walk and Ben Long (UW-Milwaukee) followed with a popup that right fielder Will Piwnica-Worms lost in the sun. However, Greg Bieker (Fort Hays State) was unable to knock in the run, keeping the Mallards’ lead at one run.
Meanwhile, the Mallards defense was keeping starting pitcher Matt Morgan (Purdue) in the game. Through the first four innings, starting pitcher Matt Morgan (Purdue) faced the minimum amount of batters thanks three double plays turned in by the Mallards infield.
In the fifth inning, the Mallards had another chance to score a run when catcher Tyson Blaser (Iowa) walked and moved to third base on a sacrifice and a groundout. However, De Pinto was unable to drive in the run with two outs, grounding out to second base to end the inning.
In the bottom half of the frame, the Mallards defense came up big once again. With a runner on first base and one out, David Valesente (St. Joseph) hit a sinking line drive to left field. But Chris Barker (MATC) made a diving catch to prevent the base hit. Another base hit put runners at the corners, but Shon Roe (Loyola Maymount) grounded out to De Pinto to end the inning with the Mallards still up 1-0.
In the meantime, the Mallards and the Lunkers were locked in an intense pitching duel. After giving up an earned run in the first inning, Brainerd starter Joey Van Cleave (Santa Rosa Junior College) settled down, allowing only two hits through the next five innings. Morgan was also very impressive, pitching a four hit shutout over the same stretch. But the Mallards hitters would soon make that pitcher’s duel a distant memory.
In the top of the seventh inning, Long single for the third time of the game. After Bieker made an out, Blaser singled to move Long to third base, putting runners at the corners. Then, Barker reached on a fielder’s choice to score Long, giving the Mallards a 2-0 lead.
The next inning, the Mallards had their biggest inning, courtesy of new relief pitcher Mats Mattson (New Orleans). Muller and De Pinto hit back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners. After Channing was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Harold Riggins was robbed of a base hit by third baseman Adam Gudmunson (North Dakota), who made the second out of the inning.
But Muller, who had been pestering on the base paths all game, surprised everyone by stealing home with Long at the plate. The clutch base running gave the Mallards a 3-0 lead. Mattson then threw a wild pitch, scoring De Pinto, and Long followed with his fourth hit of the game to score Channing, giving the Mallards a comfortable 5-0 lead in the eighth.
The Mallards got a few insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning when Barker hit a weak ground ball to third base with Blaser on first base. But Valesente’s throw to first base was off the mark, allowing Blaser to come all the way around to score, and letting Barker move to third base. Muller then had his third hit of the game to drive in Barker, giving the Mallards a 7-0 lead. Brad Allen then pinch hit for Long, and walked in another run to push the Mallards’ lead to eight runs.
Tomorrow the Mallards return to Madison for their home opener against the Rochester Honkers. The game against Rochester will be the first of six consecutive home games for the Mallards.
The Mallards Charter Communications Opening Day presented by Signature Graphics is Monday, June 1 at 7:05 p.m. against the Rochester Honkers! All fans will receive a poster schedule & fans 18 & older will have the chance to win great cash prizes courtesy of the Wisconsin Lottery. To boot, former Milwaukee Brave All-Star Johnny Logan will be in attendance to sign autographs and fans can meet US Airways hero pilot and Oregon, Wis. native Jeff Skiles! Festivities will begin at 5:30 p.m.
To purchase tickets for Opening Day please click here or call us at 608.246.4277 today!