Madison, Wis. – August 8, 2009. Alex Rivers (Santa Clara) dominated on the mound en route to a Mallards’ sweep of Eau Claire after a 3-1 win in front of 7,441 at the “Duck Pond” on Saturday night.
Rivers nearly went the distance only to be replaced by Patrick Lala (Kirkwood CC) after one hitter in the ninth. He picked up his fourth win of the season after eight strong innings, allowing a run on seven hits while striking out five and walking just two.
“He’s what we call a veteran Mallard,” Pitching Coach Jason Immekus said of Rivers. “He knows what it takes to get to the playoffs.”
“It feels good,” Rivers said of his great outing. “We know we need to win the last four games to make the playoffs.”
Rivers retired six of the last seven batters he faced and kept Madison in contention for a playoff spot with two games left to play.
Jimmy Parque (St. John’s) helped the Mallards pick up where they left off last night by smacking a single to right field and eventually coming around to score on a couple of Eau Claire errors, giving the Mallards an early, 1-0, lead in the first.
Adam McClain (Memphis) continues to find his stroke as he blasted a two-run shot into the visitor’s bullpen in right center field in the fourth, giving the Mallards a 3-0 lead. It was his seventh homer of the year.
“Adam is starting to see [the ball] again,” Immekus said of McClain’s late surge. “It allowed Alex some breathing room as well.”
With one out in the top of the fifth, the Express strung together a walk and two singles to load the bases for the clean-up hitter, Nate Baumann (Augustana), who homered and drove in three on Friday night. Rivers who had gotten out of two jams already in the game, did so again with a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and preserve the lead.
“I had a good fastball which set everything up,” Rivers said. “Quick outs in the later innings and the ability to get out of some tough spots was why I was able to go deep into the game.”
The defense behind Rivers played a key role as well and turned in another good effort in the field, converting two double plays including one to end the game on a line out to the Mallard first baseman, Jerrud Sabourin (Indiana).
“His pitches have improved,” Immekus said, comparing Rivers’ progress over the past year. “He developed a cutter last year and was able to throw three pitches in the zone tonight. If you can do that, you’ll be successful.”
Immekus said he’s also impressed by the way Rivers has matured mentally.
“He was able to smell the finish,” he said. “It’s a pleasant surprise that he could put that all together tonight.”
After the final out was recorded, PA announcer Aaron Sims relayed the score from Copeland Park, where the La Crosse Loggers were hosting Waterloo and the score at the time read Waterloo 10, La Crosse 6. After La Crosse had stormed back with a five-run eighth, the Bucks answered with a seven-run ninth to take the lead.
It seemed as if the Mallards would jump back into first place at night’s end, but La Crosse wasn’t finished. They scored five in the ninth and capped it off with a Chris Engell three-run home run to walk off with the 11-10 victory. It was Engell’s only hit of the night and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Madison remains one-half game behind La Crosse in the South Division standings with two games left to play. The Mallards will send Cody Winiarski (MATC) to the hill to take on Green Bay in game one of a two-game set beginning tomorrow night at 5:05 p.m. at the “Duck Pond”.
“He’s come up big all year,” Immekus said. “Cody wants to ry and top what Alex did today.”
“I expect a strong outing from Cody,” Rivers said. “He’s been good for us all year and I think he’s going to continue to be good tomorrow.”