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Gruener Starts as Mallards Seek Fourth-Straight Win

GAME ON Sat may 30 CROPPEDMadison, Wis. – On Saturday, the Madison Mallards will put their South-Division-leading 3-0 record to the test when the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters travel to Warner Park for the opener of a two-game series. First pitch for tonight's contest is scheduled for 6:05 p.m., and will feature a LSM Chiropractic Tumbler Giveaway and Budweiser Post-Game Fireworks.

Mallards field manager Donnie Scott sends Nick Gruener (Harvard University) to the hill for his first start of the season this evening. Gruener, a 6-foot-0, 190-pound right-handed pitcher from Miami Palmetto, Fla., went 3-4 with a 6.96 ERA and 7.39 K/9 ratio across 42.2 innings this spring. As a freshman, he finished with a 3.88 ERA over nine starts (51.0 IP).

To counter, the Rafters have tasked right-handed pitcher Derek Kawlewski (Rhode Island University) with his first star of the summer. The Stevens Point, Wis., native made nine appearances (20.2 IP) throughout his junior collegiate campaign, going 1-2 on his way to an ERA of 4.35. Kawlewski has been a member of the Rafters pitching staff since 2013.

From the Manager: "It’s been a combination of everything,” Scott said of Madison’s early success. “We’re getting solid pitching and guys are having clutch hits already, and that’s a good sign. I think they’ve ran the bases pretty well. Defensively, we’ve had a couple of boo-boos here and there, but overall, I’ve been really happy with the defense.”

Still Rakin': Madison pounded out nine hits in its series-opening victory over Wisconsin on Thursday, an effort that solidified the Mallards team batting average at .327 (tops in the South Division). Scott and company also rank third among Northwoods League teams with an OPS of .888 and hold true to a league-high eight stolen bases.

Wolfpack Welcome: Westin Wuethrich, Tony Butler and Mike Aiello, players from Madison College, will join the Mallards roster tonight. Wuethrich, a 6-foot-2 right-handed pitcher from Greenwood, Wis., went 6-2 with a 2.73 ERA as a sophomore this spring, while Butler batted .356 with 31 runs batted in and 12 stolen bases as a sophomore. This summer will be Butler’s second consecutive with the Mallards, who saw him hit .272 across 81 at-bats in 2014. Aiello, a 6-foot-0 catcher from Racine, Wis., posted a .189 batting average with three home runs this spring.

Comparing Madison’s Hot Start: Since the 2009 season, the Mallards have twice begun with three consecutive victories (2011, 2010) and have once begun the year on a 4-0 note, which came back in 2011. That year, the Mallards plated 27 runs in their four straight victories. Through three games this year, the Mallards have already produced 29 runs.

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The Madison Mallards are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 22nd season of summer collegiate baseball in 2015, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 120 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (OAK). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League Website.  For more information, visit www.MallardsBaseball.com