Madison, Wis. – August 7, 2009. The Madison Mallards extended its winning streak against Eau Claire to four games this season thanks to a come-from-behind, 12-9, victory on Friday night at the “Duck Pond”.
The Mallards (36-28 overall, 17-13 second half) battled back from a 6-0 deficit in the early innings and a late 8-5 margin to take game one of the series and remain just a half-game behind La Crosse, who defeated Waterloo by a score of 8-3 on Friday as well.
“I like the way we’re hitting right now…I really like the way we’re hitting,” Pitching Coach Jason Immekus said. “This time of year, every run is important.”
Eau Claire wasted no time getting their first run on the board, pushing one across on a Jacob Esch (Georgia Tech) curve ball in the dirt that skipped away from Madison catcher Joe Patterson (Texas A&M). Nate Baumann then followed that with his second home run of the season, a two-run shot to dead center field which gave the Express a quick 3-0 lead.
After a quiet second inning by both squads, the Express exploded for three more runs thanks to an RBI double by Baumann and a two-run homer by Jason Ganek (Illinois Chicago) to make it 6-0, visitors. After two times through the order, the three, four and five hitters in the Eau Claire lineup were a combined 6-for-6 with two home runs, five RBI, and five runs scored.
John Hicks (Virginia) finally reached pay dirt for the Mallards with a two-out solo shot into the party deck in left field. It was Hicks’ third home run of the year.
“He hung a curve and left it up,” Hicks said. “I had enough back swing to hit it out.”
Hicks finished 3-for-5 with four RBI and three runs scored on the night.
After a lead off single by Aaron Fujiki in the fourth, J.R. Graham (Santa Clara) came in relief of Esch who allowed six runs on eight hits over three innings of work.
“He’s been a solid starter for us all year,” Immekus said of Esch. “He had a little soreness in his elbow so we took him out just to be safe.”
Madison drew closer in the fifth with six consecutive singles to begin the inning. They sent eight batters to the plate, leading to four runs and cutting the deficit to 6-5.
Graham struck out Bobby Rinard to lead off the sixth, his third punch out in a row and fifth through the first seven batters he faced. He’d walk the next two guys, though, and that would set up a response from the Express as Nolan Fadness would connect on a two-out single to left to drive in both runs and stretch the lead to 8-5, but it was Graham’s effectiveness that kept the Mallards in the game during the middle innings.
“J.R. kept us in it,” Immekus said. “Coming off the bench without luxury of warming up in the bullpen just shows how tough he is to come in and pitch the way he did.”
Graham looked to almost get into another jam in the seventh when he gave up a single and then walked a batter to start the inning. He retired the next batter on a sacrifice bunt, advancing both runners 90 feet to second and third, struck out Ganek and then got Rinard to ground out to first to end the inning.
With two on and one out in the bottom of the seventh, Troy Channing (St. Mary’s) stepped to the plate representing the tying run and nearly missed evening up the score as his fly ball to left was caught on the warning track. The hottest-hitting Mallard over the past 10 games, McClain, then had a chance, but the second baseman grounded out to his counterpart to end the inning.
The Mallards put together the rally they were looking for in the eighth. With two runs already in to make the game 8-7 and only one out, Ganek came into pitch for Eau Claire and he faced Channing with the bases loaded. With a full count, he plunked the Mallard designated hitter to force in the tying run. A four-pitch walk to the next batter, Barker, gave Madison the lead, 9-8.
They weren’t done. McClain added a sacrifice fly and Jared Anderson drove in a pair with a single through the right side to make it 12-8, Mallards after eight.
Brad Allen (Elgin CC) threw a scoreless eighth to pick up his third win of the year while Patrick Lala (Kirkwood CC) worked an effective ninth to close out the game.
Alex Rivers (Santa Clara) will take the mound in game two for the Mallards. The righty has a 3-2 record on the year with a 3.00 ERA over 45 innings. He’ll face off against Eau Claire’s Ryan Kiel (Marshall) who spors a 1-0 record with a 1.86 ERA in 12 appearances this year.
“Rivers has been strong for us this year,” Immekus said. “Hopefully he’ll set the tone for another win for us.”
Saturday’s contest is slated for 6:05 p.m. at the “Duck Pond”.