Madison, WI – July 6, 2009. Four home runs powered the Mallards past the Bombers, 8-5, in a pivotal South Division battle before a crowd of 5,572 at the “Duck Pond” on Monday night. Harold Riggins’ (NC State) seventh home run of the season led off a 4-run fourth inning that was capped by a 3-run shot by Trent Soares (Fresno State) as the Mallards continue to play long ball this season.
Madison’s (3-0) four home runs on Monday gave them 35 for the season, 11 more than the team’s previous season-best of 24 back in 2003.
“Bats came alive with the long ball tonight,” Manager C.J. Thieleke said. “It’s good to get home and play the way we were in the first half and good to see the offense click after an off day.”
Jacob Esch (Georgia Tech) earned his first win of the year with six strong innings, allowing three runs on 10 hits while striking out seven and walking just one.
Esch (1-1) got off to a rough start with a 31-pitch first inning which included an RBI double by Jimmy Tanner (USC Upstate) to give the Bombers a 1-0 lead, but it could have been a lot worse. After losing the lead-off batter to a walk and giving up subsequent hits to the next two hitters, Esch answered by striking out the next three to minimize the damage while leaving runners on second and third.
The Mallards responded in the bottom half of the frame with a Riggins RBI single to center field, driving in Kurtis Muller (Iowa) who led off the first with a base hit and tying the game at 1-apiece.
Esch had a much better second inning, getting the first two batters out in order before giving up a single to Joe Van Meter (Virginia Commonwealth). However, he would pick him off at first one pitch later to end the inning.
John Hicks (Virginia) then gave Madison the lead with his first home run as a Mallard, a solo shot into the home bullpen in left field, putting his team ahead 2-1.
Then in the third, with a runner on second base and two outs, Troy Channing (St. Mary’s) made a nice bare-handed play on a slow roller to get Josh Valle (Marshall) to end the inning. The defense was superb all the way around, committing just one error on the night.
“We’re back to playing like our normal selves,” Channing said. “We’re playing loose out there and being ourselves.”
For the second inning in a row a Mallard player led off a frame with a solo homer. This time it was their most prolific home run hitter this season, Harold Riggins, who took a 2-1 pitch over the wall in right field for his seventh long ball of the year. Five batters later, Trent Soares went deep and out with an opposite field 3-run shot to left field to make it 6-1 Mallards.
Riggins finished 3-for-4 with a run and two RBI and tied the team record for individual home runs in a season. He ties Francois Larmore of Marshall who hit seven dingers back in 2003. Soares hit his first home run as a Mallard and showed a lot of power the other way.
“That’s where his power is at,” Thieleke said. “The ball really jumps off his bat to left field and it’s nice to see him hitting that way.”
Battle Creek starter, Josh McElwee (Newberry College), started to put things together as the game went on, retiring the side for the second time in a row in the fifth inning while striking out four straight into the sixth. He sat down eight straight hitters prior to an error on the second baseman Greg Fujii (San Jose City College) which allowed the speedy Trent Soares to reach base with one out in the sixth. Soares would later score from first on Jerrud Sabourin’s (Indiana) double off the wall in left.
The right-hander finished the game allowing seven runs (6 earned) on eight hits while striking out seven through six innings.
With the Mallards leading 7-3 going into the seventh inning, the Bombers (1-2) added two runs to cut a four-run deficit in half. Chris Lewis (Western Michigan) led off the inning with a single to center. Valle then laid down a bunt that hung the third base line for a hit, giving Channing no play at first. The big blow in the inning came from Matt Miraldi (Cal State L.A.) who crushed a 2-1 pitch off the wall and beyond the reach of center fielder Jimmy Parque for a 2-run triple. It was Miraldi’s first triple of the season and cut the Mallard lead to 7-5.
“I give a lot of credit to Battle Creek,” Thieleke said. “They kept coming and coming and wouldn’t quit.”
Troy Channing gave the Mallards a little more breathing room with his fifth home run of the year, a no-doubter just to the left of dead center field, giving the Mallards their final tally of the game. Channing finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. He also had a double on the night.
“I was just trying to put the ball in the middle of the field and I had a lot of confidence in the box,” Channing said.
In the ninth, Battle Creek’s Miraldi represented the tying run and drew a two-out walk to load the bases, but Denny Clement (Texas A&M) got Mike Murphi (Arizona State) to fly out to right to end the game. Clement threw two scoreless innings of relief to earn his fifth save of the season.
Cody Winiarski (MATC) will take the mound in game two, seeking his team-high fifth win of the year and a series sweep of Battle Creek. Winiarski (4-2) holds a 1.90 ERA in 10 appearances and six starts this season. He’ll face Matt Talley (The Citadel) who has a 3-2 record with a 2.04 ERA in six starts this year as well. Game time is slated for 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday at the “Duck Pond”.