Jacob Esch (Georgia Tech) soaks in the feeling after hitting his second home run of the game in the eighth inning to give the Mallards a short-lived 7-5 lead.
Madison, WI – July 30, 2009. The La Crosse Loggers stormed back to score three runs in the ninth inning after the Mallards had retaken the lead on a Jacob Esch (Georgia Tech) two-run homer in the eighth to win 8-7 and put them one-half game ahead of Madison with 10 games left in the second half.
The wild back-and-forth contest saw La Crosse jump to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning as leadoff man Austin Knight (Dallas Baptist) started the game with a walk and the next two batters in Chris Engell (San Diego) and Robert Brantly (UC Riverside) recored base hits to load the bases. Right fielder Justin Preckajlo (North Florida) then hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Knight. Luckily, Mallards pitcher Nick Rice (MATC), who made his first start of the season tonight, was then able to induce a 4-6-3 double play by Nick Baligod to end the threat.
Madison stormed right back in the bottom half to score three runs, all with two outs, as designated hitter Harold Riggins (NC State) was able to drive in two runs on single to score Jerrud Sabourin (Indiana) and Joe Patterson (Texas A&M) who were on with consecutive hit-by-pitches. Esch then hit a single to left field to score Troy Channing (St. Mary’s) who was on with a walk and advanced to third on Riggins’ RBI hit. The Mallards now led 3-1.
In the second, La Crosse cut the Mallards lead to one on a Cory Burleson (Nebraska) groundout to second baseman Alex Jones (Northern Illinois) that scored Thomas Collins who advanced due to an error by third baseman Esch.
The Mallards added a score in the fourth inning on a one-out solo home run by the man-of-the-night in Esch. The Mallards now led 4-2.
La Crosse, who now travels to Green Bay, scored two runs in the fifth inning to tie the game at four on a two-RBI double by All-Star Nick Baligod (Oral Roberts) to score Brantly and Preckajlo, who were both on with back-to-back singles.
In the Mallards sixth inning, shortstop Brashad Johnson (Des Moines Area CC) untied the score with a solo home run to left field, his first of the year, to give Madison a 5-4 advantage.
As they’ve done all season, the Loggers came right back in the next frame to tie the game on a Baligod sacrifice fly to score Knight who was on with a single and advanced to third on another error by Esch.
In the eighth inning, Esch redeemed himself with a two-run line drive home run to left field again, his second of the game, to score Adam McClain (Memphis) who was pinch running for Riggins’ after the NC State star walked with two outs. The Mallards regained the lead to take a 7-5 advantage into the ninth inning.
That’s when things went awry for Madison as Mallards right-handed reliever Jordan Hershiser (USC) allowed back-to-back hits by Knight and Engell to leadoff the inning. Brantly then hit a ball to Jones at second base, who made a nice play to get Engell out at second and keep runners at the corners. Hot-hitting Preckajlo then hit a single to center field to score Knight and move La Crosse within a run of Madison. The next hitter in Baligod then hit a line drive single to right fielder Chris Barker (MATC) who misplayed the ball to score Blair Moore who was pinch running for Brantly. On that same play, Jones received the cutoff throw from Barker but overthrew catcher Tyson Blaser (Iowa) to allow Preckajlo to score and give La Crosse a one-run lead heading into the Mallards ninth.
In that last frame, La Crosse closer C Crumbly was able to shutdown the Mallards offense in order to pick up his eighth save of the season.
Loggers reliever Troy Watson (Sacramento CC) picked up his fourth win of the season (4-1) after allowing two earned runs in two innings of work. He pitched the seventh and eighth innings for La Crosse.
Meanwhile Madison’s Hershiser received his third loss of the season (1-3) after allowing three runs (2 earned) in 2.2 innings, with all three runs coming in the ninth frame.
The Mallards now head back on the road Friday for a two-game series versus the Waterloo Bucks. Left-hander Matt Jansen (Purdue) will make his 11th start of the season carrying a 2.58 ERA into the contest.
Friday at the “Duck Pond” will feature the second consecutive Home Talent All-Star Game with game time scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The contest will be seven innings.
Plenty of great seats are available and can be purchased online by clicking here or by calling the box office at 608.246.4277.
The Mallards return home on August 7 for a four-game series against the Eau Claire Express and Green Bay Bullfrogs.