John Hicks (Virginia) added an RBI double in the fourth inning.
La Crosse, WI – July 14, 2009. Mid-Season All-Star Kurtis Muller (Iowa) had four hits and drove in three runs in key situations to help lead the Mallards over the first-place La Crosse Loggers 4-3 Tuesday at Copeland Park in a game they had to win.
Heading into tonight’s contest, the Mallards were two games behind the Loggers and knew that a loss would move the season series to 1-4 and a deeper hole in the race for the second-half championship. Fortunately, those notions ended up being just afterthoughts as the victory now puts Madison just a game back with 23 games left and the opportunity to leave La Crosse Wednesday sitting in a first-place tie.
The Loggers (8-3, 29-16 overall) scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning after starting pitcher Logan Munson (North Carolina) sat down the Mallards offense in order during the top half. After Justin Preckajlo (North Florida) walked to begin the threat, he was able to later advance to second when Nick Baligod (Oral Roberts) hit a ground ball to first baseman Harold Riggins (NC State) who was only able to record the out at first. Brandon Meredith (San Diego State) then hit a ball to third baseman Troy Channing (St. Mary’s) that went for a base-hit to score Preckajlo. Winiarski was able to bear down and strike out the next hitter, Chris Engell (San Diego), but Meredith was able to steal second base during the at-bat. After Austin Knight (Dallas Baptist) walked, Robert Abel (San Francisco) then hit a base-knock to right centerfield to score Meredith and give the Loggers a 2-0 lead.
The Mallards (7-4, 26-19 overall) would answer in the fourth inning when second baseman Kurtis Muller (Iowa) got things started with a leadoff single. Jerrud Sabourin then came to the plate, and didn’t dissapoint, adding another single to put two runners on in front of the all-world Riggins. But both Riggins and catcher Joe Patterson (Texas A&M) would both strike out to bleaken the Mallards threat. Not so fast, said center fielder John Hicks (Virginia) as he stepped into the box and stroked a run-scoring double to left field on the very first pitch. The inning would end on a fly ball to right field by Channing. La Crosse still led 2-1.
Madison would add another run in the fifth to tie the game on a clutch RBI single by Muller to score Adam McClain (Memphis) who was on with a walk and able to advance to third on a called balk and sacrifice by J.R. Graham (Santa Clara).
The offense wasn’t satisfied yet, as they again flexed their muscles, or patience, morelike, in the top of the seventh inning. Channing led off the frame with a walk. After Jacob Esch (Georgia Tech) flew out to center field, McClain then had a great eye at the plate and earned a walk off Munson. Graham then hit a weak popout to the second baseman to leave the Mallards one more opportunity to capitalize on the two free passes. Muller, who was recently named to the Northwoods League Mid-Season All-Star Team, then added a clutch second hit of the game, this one good for a double, to score Channing and McClain, and give the team a 4-2 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
The Loggers would cut the deficit to one on a solo home run by Baligod in the eighth inning to make the score 4-3.
Winiarski picked up his fifth win of the summer (5-2), but it didn’t come easy. The normally in-control right-hander allowed two runs by walking a season-high seven Loggers’ hitters in six innings of work. He also struck out five batters.
Brad Allen (Elgin CC) relieved Winiarski in the seventh and went on to give up one run in his two innings of work, while striking out two. Dan Burawa (St. John’s) then entered the ballgame in the ninth inning looking for his third save of the year, and did just that, striking out two Loggers’ as well to preserve the victory.
Munson picked up the loss (1-1) for La Crosse by allowing all four runs on six hits over seven innings.
These same two teams will battle again Wednesday in a 7:05 p.m. matchup at Copeland Park.
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