By Peter Geppert
Madison, WI – August 14, 2012. The 12th season of Mallards baseball came with huge expectations for the organization both on and off the field. In the final year of a three year renovation project, the “Duck Pond” completed its development towards becoming one of the premier destinations in summer collegiate baseball. The team itself came loaded with expectations following a successful off-season that saw the signing of some of the top talent in the amateur ranks. With a star-studded roster and rejuvenated stadium, 2012 figured to be one of the most exciting seasons in franchise history.
First Half (16-19)
The Mallards began the season opening at home against the defending Northwoods League champion Battle Creek Bombers (26-43). After a thrilling 6-5 opening night victory in which the pitching staff racked up 19 strikeouts, the Mallards capped a three game sweep of their first home stand of the season with a walk-off 3-2 win over the La Crosse Loggers (49-21) on June 1st. Even with the fast start the Mallards were unable to keep up with the rest of the division, struggling to a 10-18 record in the month of June.
One bright spot for the Mallards was right fielder Tyler Marincov (North Florida), who catapulted himself into the Northwoods League MVP discussion with an incredible month of June. Over that stretch, the North Florida sophomore finished with a .387 batting average, eight home runs, and 25 RBIs, which put him amongst the league leaders in all three categories.
In the final five games of the season, the Mallards offense showed serious signs of life that hinted at a run towards the playoffs in the second half. With their plethora of highly touted offensive talent starting to report, the Mallards outscored their opponents 42-20 in their final four wins of the half.
The Northwoods League All-Star Game occurred at the “Duck Pond” for the first time since 2008, and for the first time with the stadium’s complete renovations. In front of an All-Star Game record crowd of 6,073, the South Division beat the North Division 4-3 in a back and forth contest.
Both Mallards’ All-Stars, Marincov and left-hander Anthony Marzi (Connecticut), shined in playing pivotal roles to aid the South’s win. Marzi pitched a perfect 3rd inning of relief, while Marincov delivered the decisive solo homer in the eighth inning to go 1-for-2 with two walks and be named the All-Star Game Star of Stars.
Second Half (23-12)
The second part of the season saw the Mallards enjoy their best half under second year manager Greg Labbe, as they were finally able to assemble all of the key pieces that they had signed in the off-season. Featuring a lineup that was full of explosive power hitters, the Mallards jolted out of the gate, winning seven of their first nine games.
After a quick start by the Mallards and the Wisconsin Woodchucks (43-27), it became clear to the rest of the league that the second half South Division championship hunt would be a two-team race the rest of the way. Heading into a crucial two game series against the Woodchucks on July 18th, the division rivals were separated by a mere two games. After dropping the opener 2-0 in a rain-shortened contest, the Mallards came back the next night to thrash the Woodchucks 10-0 and stay in the race.
Even with a 6-1 record in the week after their series with the Woodchucks, the Mallards were unable to keep up, dropping three straight to the Loggers during a four game series that started July 29th. Despite being 18-10, the Mallards were officially eliminated from playoff contention by a red-hot Woodchucks squad following an 8-7 loss to the Lakeshore Chinooks (35-35) on August 5th.
Representing the lone selection for the Mallards to the honorary 30 player All-Star team was Marincov. The All-Star finished the year tied with teammate Jeff Zimmerman (Northern Illinois) for the single season franchise record in home runs with 13. A mid-season All-Star selection as well, his .312 batting average and 47 RBIs were both second on the team, while his 17 doubles led Mallards’ hitters.
Finishing the season with an overall record of 39-31, the 2012 Mallards ended the summer with their best winning percentage since 2010. Their .557 mark ranks as the 5th best in franchise history.
Team closer John Hamilton (UNC-Charlotte) tied former Mallard Bubba O’Donnel (2007, High Point) for the single season franchise record in saves, with 12. In 12 save opportunities this summer the lefty was perfect, converting each one while carrying a 2.15 ERA.
Zimmerman had the most productive season in franchise history, posting a record 57 RBIs. The previous mark of 48 was shared by former Mallards Rob Lyerly (2008, UNC-Charlotte) and Harold Riggins (2009, North Carolina State).
With 37 stolen bases in 44 attempts, Mallards center fielder John Welborn (Texas-San Antonio) finished his year as the Northwoods League leader in that category.
A combined 26 home runs between Maricov and Zimmerman made them the most potent power duo in the league, leading all other league teammates in total home runs.
Notable Hitting Leaders:
Left fielder Derek Fisher (Virginia): .315 AVG, 58 hits, 39 runs, eight HR, 36 RBIs, 10 2B
Right fielder Tyler Marincov (North Florida): .312 AVG, 82 hits, 60 runs, 13 HR, 47 RBIs, 17 2B, 24 SB
Third baseman Nicholas Howard (Virginia): .292 AVG, 57 hits, 35 runs, six HR, 28 RBIs, 13 2B
First baseman Jeff Zimmerman (Northern Illinois): .274 AVG, 69 hits, 41 runs, 13 HR, 57 RBIs
Center fielder John Welborn (Texas-San Antonio): .235 AVG, 42 hits, 42 runs, two HR, 14 RBIs, 37 SB
Notable Pitching Leaders:
Right-hander Matt LaMothe (Georgia State): 5-4, 3.46 ERA, 65.0 IP, 69 SO
Right-hander Trevor Foss (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi): 3-8, 5.04 ERA, 69.2 IP, 77 SO
Right-hander Danny Sullivan (Madison College): 5-1, 2.64 ERA, 44.1 IP, 61 SO, 1 SV
Left-hander Bobby Poyner (Florida): 4-0, 1.15 ERA, 39.0 IP, 33 SO
Left-hander John Hamilton (UNC-Charlotte): 1-1, 2.15 ERA, 29.1 IP, 44 SO, 12 SV
Mallards Players Drafted in 2012
The Mallards had 14 players who dawned the green and yellow at some point in their collegiate careers drafted this year. The following current and former Mallards were selected in this summer’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft:
Infielder Mark Ginther (2009, Oklahoma State) – 24th Round, Arizona Diamondbacks
Third baseman Stephen Bruno (2010, Virginia) – 7th Round, Chicago Cubs
Infielder Ross Heffley (2010, Western Carolina) – 18th Round, Atlanta Braves
Pitcher Mike Mason (2010, Marshall) – 24th Round, Colorado Rockies
Pitcher Rusty Shellhorn (2010-2011, Texas Tech) – 31st Round, Seattle Mariners
Catcher Ryan Gorton (2010, Oregon State) – 31st Round, Oakland Athletics
Pitcher Jordan Hershiser (2010, Southern California) – 34th Round, Los Angeles Dodgers
Pitcher Matt Milroy (2011, Illinois) – 11th Round, Miami Marlins
Center fielder Willie Argo (2011, Illinois) – 22nd Round, Tampa Bay Rays
Infielder Matt Juengel (2011, Texas A&M) – 24th Round, Miami Marlins
Pitcher Jerad Grundy (2011, Kentucky) – 26th Round, Minnesota Twins
Pitcher Ryan Bores (2011, Kent State) – 27th Round, Texas Rangers
Infielder Mike McQuillan (2011, Iowa) – 33rd Round, Washington Nationals
Pitcher Will Lamarche (2012, Chabot College) – 18th Round, Minnesota Twins
Pitcher Alec Mills (2012, UT-Martin) – 22nd Round, Kansas City Royals
Pitcher Justin Topa (2012, Long Island) – 33rd Round, Cincinnati Reds
The Madison Mallards are part of the 16-team Northwoods League. The Northwoods League has more teams, plays more games, and draws more fans than any other Summer Collegiate Baseball League in North America.