By: Alec Dopp, Mallards Public Relations
Madison, Wis. (August 27) – The Madison Mallards 2015 campaign officially came to a close on Tuesday, August 11 under the lights of historic Simmons Field in Kenosha, with field manager Donnie Scott and company falling just a few outs shy of a berth in the Northwoods League's summer collegiate world series.
Yet while the season ended on what most would consider a sour note — the Kingfish bested Madison on a walk-off single in the bottom of the tenth, and eventually went on to win the championship over St. Cloud — this summer proved to be one of the best in Mallards history from several perspectives.
Attendance-wise, the Mallards once again staked their claim as the creme of the summer collegiate crop. A grand total of 216,159 fans filed through Warner Park's gates across 34 regular-season contests this season, en route to an average attendance of 6,358 per game that not only doubled the Northwoods League's second-best mark (3,054), but also set a new franchise record for attendance since its inception in 2001.
No doubt, Madison's early on-field success played a vital role in its unprecedented drawing. Sweeping Kalamazoo in a two-game home set to open their schedule — a series that concluded with a 16-1 thumping of the Growlers on May 27 — the Mallards proceeded to string together five more wins over their next six games to run their record to 7-1 to open up the first-half of the 2015 season. Impressively, Madison out-scored its opponents 54-21 during its first eight games.
As the calendar flipped from May to June and players from high-profile college programs reported to Madison for summer competition, the Mallards continued their hot-swinging ways in the second month of the season. Anthony Gonsolin (St. Mary's College), Logan Regnier (Central Michigan), Jean Ramirez (Illinois State) and Collin Theroux (Oklahoma State) ignited Scott's lineup with batting averages at or above the .300 plateau in the second month of the season, while Mike Kaelin (Buffalo) whiffed 25 hitters over 13.2 shutout innings en route to a trio of saves for Madison's bullpen.
Unable to secure a first-half South Division title despite an otherwise impressive 20-15 mark and several thrilling walk-off victories over divisional foes at the end June, Scott and the Mallards turned their attention toward a hot start to the second-half entering July. A 3-3 record over its first six games wasn't exactly what Madison had hoped for, though a two-game road sweep of a talented Willmar club from July 7-8 sparked what would eventually transform into a 16-11 month. The Mallards led the league in home runs (27) and OPS (.808) during their scintillating stretch of July contests.
With nine games remaining in their regular-season schedule, the Mallards caught fire. Opening August with a decisive 6-1 victory over Wisconsin at the Duck Pond — a win made possible by Andrew Beckwith's (Coastal Carolina) career-high six strikeouts over seven innings of one-run ball — the Mallards strung together six consecutive victories to open the final month of the regular season before taking one of three from La Crosse in the season's final weekend. Madison's scorching final month clinched the division's second-best overall record, resulting in a number two playoff seed.
Advancing to the South Division championship game after fending off the Green Bay Bullfrogs by a 3-2 score at the Duck Pond, a win that culminated with A.J. Bogucki (North Carolina) emphatically striking out the side in the top of the ninth, the Mallards made a quick turnaround to Simmons Field on Tuesday, August 11. Sterling Sharp (Drury University) and the Mallards pitching staff held the Kingfish to no runs through the first seven innings, though after allowing one run in the eighth saw their 2015 season end on a walk-off, RBI single by John Brodner in the bottom of the ninth.
Mallards All-Stars Honored — Amid Madison's late-season sprint to the playoffs was the 2015 Northwoods League All-Star game on Tuesday, July 21 in Wisconsin Rapids, for which five Mallards players were selected to participate. Gonsolin, Ramirez, Regnier and Kaelin were joined by reliever Vince Arobio (Univ. of Pacific) to don green and yellow at Witter Field for the South Division, who eventually went on to defeat its North Counterparts by a 3-1 score. Arobio and Kaelin each tabbed scoreless appearances in the game, while Gonsolin drove in a run and Regnier went 1-for-2.
Postseason All-Stars — As the Mallards transitioned from regular-season play to postseason competition, the Northwoods League on August 9 announced its 2015 postseason All-Star squads for both the south and north divisions. Madison wasn't short-changed of representatives for the south, as Gonsolin, Ramirez, Regnier and Kaelin were included in the laundry list of prospective big-league talent after piecing together impressive 2015 campaigns for the Mallards.
Gonsolin's Historic Year — Anthony Gonsolin left an indelible mark on both the Mallards and Northwoods League this summer. Finishing not only as the league's only hitter with double-digit marks in home runs and stolen bases, the St. Mary's College product became just the sixth qualified hitter since 2009 to muster at least a .300 batting average with 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases in a single season (.316 BA, 11 HR, 16 SB overall). Five of the six previous players to accomplish the feat went on to be selected in the 11th-round or better of Major League Baseball's amateur draft.
A Whiff-Tastic Season — Led by Mike Kaelin, Vince Arobio, Scott Moss (Florida) and a host of other strikeout-savvy bullpen and rotation arms, the Mallards struck out a Northwoods League-high 580 batters during the 2015 season en route to a team strikeout-per-nine inning ratio of 8.4 and strikeout rate (K/PA) of 20.9%, meaning that approximately one in five outs the Mallards recorded this summer came via a strikeout. Kaelin was responsible for a team-best 50 whiffs, while Arobio (10.9 K/9) and Moss (13.1) eached tabbed well over a strikeout-per-inning average for Madison in 2015.
Statistical Leaders (Hitting) — AVG: L. Regnier (.344) || HR: A. Gonsolin (11) || RBI: A. Gonsolin (46) || SB: A. Gonsolin (16) || Hits: A. Gonsolin (78) || Runs: A. Gonsolin (49) || Doubles: S. Tyler (17) || Triples: C. Frost (5) || SO: J. Gould (51) || BB: A. Gonsolin (33) || HBP: J. Quintana (10) || OBP: J. Goldstein (.439) || SLG%: C. Theroux (.512) || OPS: A. Gonsolin (.912) || Runs Created: A. Gonsolin (49.9)
Statistical Leaders (Pitching) — Wins: D. D'Spain (5) || IP: D. D'Spain (47.2) || ERA: C. Olmstead (1.28) || SO: M. Kaelin (50) || SV: M. Kaelin (8) || WHIP: M. Kaelin (0.84) || Quality Starts: A. Beckwith (5) || BAA: S. Sharpe (.167) || K/9: M. Kaelin (14.1) || BB/9: A. Beckwith (1.9) || K/BB: M. Kaelin (12.5) || CG: A. Beckwith (1) || WP: D. D'Spain (8) || Losses: A. Bogucki (4) || First-Pitch Strike%: N. Gruener (66.7%)
Memorable Quotes: "I was just trying to get a pitch to hit — no pressure at all. This is just baseball. I'm trying to have fun." – Ro Coleman, July 3 || "A couple guys mentioned it — go out and be a hero," Collin Theroux, June 20 || "I was feeling good today. I woke up with a smile on my face and told myself I'm going to strike some guys out," Andrew Beckwith, August 1 || "This guy's lights out — he's perfect," Donnie Scott on Mike Kaelin, June 26 || "Honestly, I just want to play baseball," Anthony Gonsolin, July 9
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.