Madison, WI – June 5, 2009. It was Alex McClain’s (Memphis) turn to be the hero on Friday night as he sent the crowd of 6,252 home happy with his walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth to give the Mallards a 9-5 victory over St. Cloud at the “Duck Pond”. McClain hit the second walk-off home run for a Madison player this season and gave the Mallards their sixth straight win and a chance to sweep the 6-game homestand tomorrow night.
“He’s an exciting talent,” Manager C.J. Thieleke said of his right fielder. “He got a pitch to hit and he did what you’re supposed to do with it.”
“It was a matter of ‘see the ball, hit the ball’,” McClain said. “I was trying to make good contact, possibly get a sacrifice fly and it just kept going.”
Harold Riggins (NC State) sent the Mallard faithful home with a walk-off homer back on Monday and McClain followed suit tonight. He finished the game 2-for-5 with four RBI and two runs scored. His first home run of the season couldn’t have come at a better time.
Leading up to that point the Mallards had a tough time with St. Cloud starter, Logan Birr (St. Cloud State). The right hander gave up two runs on four hits over seven solid innings and left with a 5-2 lead. Not only was the offense slow going to start the game, but so was the defense in committing three errors leading to two unearned runs. Mallard starter Brad Allen (Elgin CC) gave up four runs (2 earned) on seven hits and walked a pair over five innings. In total, the Mallard pitching staff walked nine River Bats.
“We pitched with no tempo,” Thieleke said. “It was the first big crowd, the first Friday night, there were a little nerves out there.”
In the first inning, St. Cloud (3-6) got on the board after Dan Betteridge (Rutgers) crossed the plate after reaching base on an error. In the fourth inning, two walks and an error led to two more runs to give the River Bats a 3-2 lead. Zac Richard’s (Xavier) solo homer in the fifth and sacrifice fly in the seventh made the score 5-2.
The Mallard comeback trail started in the eighth inning with a pair of singles by Brandon Wikoff (Illinois) and McClain, followed by a hit by pitch to Channing loaded the bases for Riggins. His single to left drove in two runs and the crowd, which hadn’t had much to cheer about, finally had reason to get on their feet. A Ben Long (UW-Milwaukee) ground out to first scored Barker, who pinch ran for Channing, and the game was tied at 5-5 heading into the ninth.
Long entered play leading the Northwoods League in all three triple crown categories, but it was a little dribbler to first that put the pressure on St. Cloud to try and hold the Mallards in the ninth.
“It seems like we never worry,” McClain said. “We never press. We just let the game come to us and so far it’s just seemed to happen for us.”
In the ninth, Tyson Blaser (Iowa) earned a one out walk and moved over to third on Wikoff’s double to left. An intentional walk to Joe De Pinto (USC) set up McClain’s heroics to keep the Mallards unbeaten at home so far this season.
Kyle Heim (Iowa) earned his first win of the season, pitching a scoreless ninth inning. Jordan Hershiser (USC) overcame a dismal outing in his last start and struck out two in a scoreless sixth. Madison will go for its third consecutive series sweep and seventh win in a row when they host the River Bats tomorrow night at 6:05 p.m.
Matt Morgan will hit the bump for his second start of the season. He’s 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA, surrendering six hits and striking out seven hitters over 10 innings of work this year.