Riggins’ slam, Jansen’s arm leads Mallards past Beetles

Box Score

Madison, WI – July 11, 2009. Madison busted out the big sticks to avenge last night’s loss and salvage a series split with a 7-4 win over Alexandria in front of 6,860 in attendance at the “Duck Pond” on Saturday night.

Matt Jansen (Purdue) threw six strong innings to earn his fifth win and Harold Riggins (NC State) belted his eighth home run of the year, a grand slam in the fifth to put the Mallards (25-17 overall, 6-2 second half) ahead for good en route to a 7-4 win.

“After yesterday, everybody was a little down,” Riggins said of last night’s 6-3 loss. “Coming out and scoring two runs in the first really got us going.”

Kurtis Muller (Iowa) led off the first inning with an infield single and came around to score on Joe Patterson’s (Texas A&M) bloop single down the left field line. Riggins, who singled to right center in his first at-bat, scampered home on a pass ball, giving the Mallards a 2-0 lead after an inning.

“We call it playing down hill,” Manager C.J. Thieleke said of getting the early lead. “Matt Jansen was as good for six innings as we’ve seen him this year.

Jansen faced the minimum and didn’t allow a hit through the first four innings. Tim Roberson (Florida Gulf Coast) broke that streak in the fifth with a single to left field and Sean Olenek (Mercer) added another single up the middle, but the Beetles (25-17, 5-3) failed to score, keeping the shutout intact.

John Hicks (Virginia) led off the bottom of the inning with a hit-by-pitch followed by a double down the left field line by Jacob Esch (Georgia Tech). Muller came to the plate with one out and runners on second and third and grounded into a fielder’s choice to the third baseman who got Hicks in a rundown between third and home and retired him. As a result, runners winded up at first and second.

Jerrud Sabourin (Indiana) then drew a walk to load the bases and the Mallards’ heavy-hitting Riggins stepped to the plate. With the first pitch he saw, the right-handed slugger deposited the baseball up and over the wall in left center field for a grand slam.

“In my first couple at-bats I was guessing the pitch,” Riggins said. “then I just relaxed and took a nice easy swing and it went.”

In giving Madison a 6-0 lead, he also set the single-season franchise record for home runs in a season with his eighth long ball of the year. He surpassed Francois Larmore (Marshall) who hit seven homers back in 2003. Riggins needs just one more home run to set the franchise record for career homers.

“It’s a good feeling — exciting — but I don’t really take time to think about that during the season,” Riggins said of breaking the mark.

In the eighth inning, the Beetles finally got to Jansen, scoring four runs on just a pair of singles. The left-hander walked the first two batters of the inning before getting Tyler Erickson (Minnesota-Duluth) to fly out to the right fielder Chris Barker (MATC), who laid out to make a brilliant diving catch.

He got the next batter to fly out to left and then gave up an RBI single and another walk before Roberson cut the deficit in half with a two-run single up the middle to score Keith Castillo (USC) and Harry Austin (Elon), making it 6-3 Mallards. Alexandria added one more when catcher Tyson Blaser (Iowa) tried to pick off Roberson at first and saw the ball sail into right field bringing around Castillo all the way from second, making it 6-4.

In the bottom of the inning, Troy Channing (St. Mary’s) connected on a pinch-hit solo home run, his sixth of the year, giving the Mallards a more comfortable 7-4 lead.

Cameron Amsrude (UW-Milwaukee), who relieved Jansen to get the final out in the eighth, worked a perfect ninth to pick up his first save of the season.

The Mallards remain in a tie for the South Division lead with La Crosse who also won on Saturday night.

Madison will host Battle Creek tomorrow in a day/night doubleheader at the “Duck Pond”. Going for the Ducks in game one will be right-hander Jordan Hershiser (USC; 1-1, 4.85 ERA) and in game two Esch (1-1, 2.33 ERA).

“It starts a tough stretch for us,” Thieleke said. “We don’t want to get into a situation where we feel mentally worn, so it’s important that we just take each game one game at a time.”

Both games tomorrow will be nine innings apiece and there will be two gates, meaning separate tickets will need to be purchased for each game. First pitch of game one is set for 1:05 p.m. while game two is slated for 6:05 p.m.