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Published On: August 5th, 2009

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The Honkers will no doubt remember this moment from the team’s first meeting on June 1, 2009 when Harold Riggins (NC State) hit a walk-off two-run home run to defeat Rochester 7-6 at the “Duck Pond.” The Mallards would win the following night as well by a score of 6-1.

Last night’s Box Score

Rochester, MN – August 5, 2009. With six games left in the Northwoods League second half of the season, the Mallards conclude their six-game road trip with a stop in Rochester to battle the North Division-leading Honkers Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. as Madison’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot now stands at five.

Any total combination of Mallards (16-11) wins plus La Crosse Loggers’ losses that equals five will propel Madison into the 2009 NWL Playoffs for a second consecutive year.

The Loggers (15-13) open a home-and-home series against the Eau Claire Express tonight at their friendly confines, Copeland Park, beginning at 7:05 p.m.

In regards to the Mallards matchup against the Honkers Wednesday, Madison will send left-hander Nick Rice (MATC) to the hill to make his second start of the season. In his first start, six days ago on July 30, Rice was unspectacular but effective in allowing five runs (3 earned) over 6.1 innings in the heartbreaking 8-7 loss to the Loggers, that saw La Crosse score three runs in the ninth to leave town with the two-game sweep. Rice joined the Mallards in mid-July after numerous injuries to the pitching staff left Manager C.J. Thieleke’s starting rotation thin. He is set to transfer to NC State in the fall where he’ll once again be a teammate of slugger Harold Riggins.

Meanwhile, Rochester (20-10) will counter with right-hander Andrew Gagnon (Long Beach State) who is 4-2 with a 2.15 ERA over 50.1 innings, including nine starts. In his last outing on July 30 against the Alexandria Beetles, Gagnon had his worst performance of the year after allowing seven runs (5 earned) over only three innings to receive his second loss of the season. A decent strikout pitcher, he has punched out 49 batters on the year.

The Honkers own the league’s best overall record at 39-23 while the Mallards sit 3.5 games back of them at 35-26. Madison does own a one-half game lead over the Express (35-27) in the race for home field advantage during the first-round of the playoffs in the Divisional Series.

These two teams squared off way back on June 1-2 during the Mallards first two home games at the “Duck Pond” with Madison winning both. In game one’s 7-6 victory, Riggins hit a mammoth walk-off two-run homer in the ninth inning to defeat the Honkers 7-6 in front of 5,221 fans. This came after Rochester stormed back to score two runs in their ninth inning at-bat to take a 6-5 lead. In that game, right-hander Jordan Hershiser (USC) received the start and only pitched 1.1 innings while allowing three runs. Since departed Nick Chmielewski (Illinois) received the win after allowing one run (none earned) in that final frame. The Mallards defense committed seven errors in the contest.

Game two saw 2008 NWL Mid-Season All-Star Matt Jansen (Purdue) throw six shut-out innings to receive his first win of the season in the Mallards 6-1 victory. Designated hitter Ben Long (UW-Milwaukee), who at that time was on a 10-day contract and has since been waived and signed by the Wisconsin Woodchucks, provided the offense in going 3-for-4 with a home run and 2 RBI. Rochester’s Zach Robertson (Iowa) picked up the loss after allowing five runs, all earned, on seven hits while striking out a season-high 13 batters.

There’s a good chance these teams won’t recognize each other as only 17 players from that Opening Day Mallards roster will be active for tonight’s game in Rochester. Of those 17, only 5 position players received plate appearances in those two games.

Jansen is scheduled to start Thursday’s game, his 12th of the season, which will tie the Mallards single-season mark for total starts with four other pitchers including three arms from the team’s inaugural 2001 season in Justin Fuller (North Florida), Rene Recio (Oral Roberts), and Robbie Van (UNLV).

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Catch all Mallards action on the road by dialing in to FM 100.5 ESPN or by visiting espnmadison.com for a live stream of the games. Or, to watch the games live, simply click on “Game Day” on Mallardsbaseball.com to begin your viewing experience tonight!

Madison returns home this Friday, August 7 for their LAST four regular season games beginning at 7:05 p.m.

Friday’s promotions include the Dejope Little Bit of Vegas Night with a special appearance by The King, and the Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar Mini Bat Night (first 500 kids!). On top of that, the fan who records the fastest pitch thrown in the Mallards “Speed Pitch” will win the opportunity to throw against Hall of Famer Paul Molitor in the MLB Alumni Game on August 21 at the “Duck Pond.” We can’t forget the “World’s Largest Candy Drop” that will occur after the game either. Over 2,000 pieces of candy, including 1,000 packs of Quench Gum, will be dropped 100′ from a lift in center field towards an outfield packed full of kids. You won’t want to miss this!

Plently of great seats are available for this weekend’s games and can be purchased online by clicking here, or by calling the box office at 608.246.4277 today!