Varce, Bullfrogs take series opener, 9-1, over Mallards

Box Score

Madison, WI – July 16, 2009. Green Bay got another stellar performance from Zach Varce (Portland) and the offense gave him the run support he needed to earn the win as the Bullfrogs defeated the Mallards, 9-1, in front of a season-high 7,151 fans at the “Duck Pond” on Thursday night.

Varce (2-4) had received only nine runs of support over his previous eight starts and that number doubled in his second win of the year. The right-hander struck out 10 batters and walked just two while allowing an earned run over seven innings of work. He lowered his ERA to a 1.70 and pushed his league-leading strikeout total to 90 in 63.2 innings.

The offensive support for Varce came before he even touched the mound when Green Bay tallied five runs on four hits off Madison starter Derek Self in the first inning. An early error by Jacob Esch (Georgia Esch) at shortstop led to four of the five runs being unearned when he bobbled what looked to be an easy double play. The big blow came off the bat of Kyle Robinson (Indian River State) who blasted his second home run of the season, a three-run shot off the scoreboard in left field to give the Bullfrogs a quick 5-0 lead.

That enabled Varce to put it in cruise control from the get-go as he retired the side in order.

“Sometimes that happens,” Manager C.J. Thieleke said of Varce’s sudden run support. “A guy doesn’t get any support in his previous four starts and then the flood gates open. They gained confidence after that.”

The Mallard defense would step up an inning later when center fielder Jimmy Parque (St. John’s) robbed Paul Hoenecke (UW-Milwaukee) of a base hit with two outs and runners on first and third. Despite a couple of hits, Self got out of the frame unscathed.

In the Mallards half of the second, Joe Patterson (Texas A&M) and Troy Channing (St. Mary’s) each sent balls to the warning track in left field, but gave the left fielder Robinson just enough room to make the catch. John Hicks (Virginia) did get the Mallards’ first hit in the inning with a double down the left field line.

Self settled down considerably, retiring 9-of-10 batters into the fifth inning, but Chris Schaeffer (NC State) finally got to him, taking a 2-0 pitch to almost the same spot over the left field wall as Robinson’s homer in the first to extend the lead to 6-0.

In the Mallards’ half, Parque and Channing reached with a single and a walk, respectively, to lead off the frame. Esch grounded into a fielder’s choice followed by a strikeout by Adam McClain (Memphis). Kurtis Muller (Iowa) then singled to put runners on first and second and a wild pitch by Varce advanced them each 90 feet. Jerrud Sabourin (Indiana), the Mallards’ newest member to this year’s all-star game after replacing the injured Mark Ginther (Oklahoma State), had a chance to cut the deficit, but grounded out to the second baseman Riley Hendricks (Portland) to end the inning.

“It’s a game-by-game thing,” Parque said of the Mallards’ struggles. “Tonight, we faced a tough kid, but I think we’ll come back strong tomorrow.”

Parque finished with two of the Mallards’ six hits on the night, one game following a 3-for-4 effort in a win at La Crosse on Wednesday night.

“The first month I was here, I was pulling everything,” Parque said. “The last couple games I’ve been relaxed and just trying to drive the ball up the middle and it seem to be working for me.”

“There were some good swings,” Theileke said. “I don’t think we were completely over-matched.”

In the sixth, Garrett Granitz (Azusa Pacific) relieved Self who allowed six runs (2 earned) while striking out three and walking none over five innings.

“He’s going through a dead-arm period,” Theieleke said of Self’s performance. “There’s no pain. The ball just isn’t coming out the way he wants it to.”

The submarine right-hander, Granitz, got the first hitter to ground out with a comebacker to the mound, but then put the next three batters on base by virtue of a walk and two hit batsmen. A single by Jacob House (Arkansas) followed to drive in two more, making the score 8-1 after six innings.

Nick Rice (MATC) made his Mallard debut in the seventh inning, relieving Granitz on the mound. He received a rude welcoming as Hendricks drew a walk to lead off the inning followed by an RBI double by Robinson to make the score 9-1. Rice struck out the next two batters and then got the final out with a foul popout to Sabourin at first. He allowed one run and struck out four in his two innings of work.

The Mallards (27-19 overall, 8-5 second half) have dropped seven of their last 11 home games and will look for a series split against the Bullfrogs at the “Duck Pond” on Friday. They’ll send Alex Rivers (Santa Clara) to the mound with a 1-1 record and a 2.00 ERA in 27 innings this season.

“We play with good confidence with Alex out there,” Theileke said. “We don’t classify our starters, but he would be our number one.”

Rivers will match-up against Green Bay (19-27, 5-8) left-hander Brett Ebinger (Lambuth), who’s 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA in 29.2 innings pitched this year.

Friday night’s first pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. at the “Duck Pond”.