By Nate Jelinek – The Madison Mallards 2017 season came to a close at Warner Park on Sunday, August 13th with a 6-1 victory over the Battle Creek Bombers. Despite missing the playoffs due to owning the short end of a tiebreaker for the final spot, the Mallards capped the season with an exciting series sweep against the Bombers. In front of two electric Warner Park crowds, the Mallards took down the Bombers with a 7-3 victory on Saturday before the 6-1 win to finish the season. The Mallards finished the season with an above-.500 record for the 15th straight season, ending the summer with a 38-34 record.
After a slow start to the season that saw the Mallards hover close to the .500 mark, the Mallards turned it on in late June. The Mallards offense dominated opposing pitching staffs and consistently won in blow-out fashion. The Mallards won 14 of 19 ballgames while outfielders Doran Turchin (Illinois) and Jeffery Mitchell Jr. (California) mashed at the plate. Turchin led the team with 50 RBI while Mitchell Jr. drove in 43 runs despite playing only 47 games. Turchin was also a difference maker in the center of the Madison outfield for the entirety of the season. Turchin was a weapon when it came to throwing out opposing runners trying to score or take extra bases. The Illini centerfielder made a number of highlight throws including one in the NWL All-Star Game. Overall, he had seven outfield assists.
The Mallards pitching staff was led by Simon Rosenblum-Larson (Harvard). The Ivy leaguer, who also pitched with Madison in 2016, was consistently among the league leaders in ERA. Rosenblum-Larson made ten starts this summer, including a six-start stretch in which he didn’t allow more than three hits. Overall, Rosenblum-Larson compiled a 1.53 ERA and held batters to a .203 average over 52.2 innings pitched.
The Mallards were spoiled with the consistent performance of shortstop Cole Daily (Notre Dame). Daily, who operated as the Mallards leadoff batter for the majority of the summer, paced the NWL in hits and runs all season. Daily led the team with 284 at bats and posted a .338 batting average while drawing 42 walks, knocking in 31 RBI, and swiping 19 bases. The Mallards were also treated to an emergence from outfielder Zac Taylor (Illinois) who posted stellar numbers at the plate once gaining consistent playing time in the middle of the season. Taylor ended the summer with a .350 batting average and seven dingers through 180 at bats.
The middle of the summer also treated the Mallards with the arrival of a number of impact players. Following the Florida Gators National Championship run, pitchers Tyler Dyson, Nate Brown, and Andrew Baker descended upon Madison. Dyson, who earned the win in the Gators College World Series-clinching victory over the LSU Tigers, brought nasty stuff to the Madison rotation. Dyson made five starts and posted a 4-0 record through 28.1 innings of work. Dyson walked only three men while striking out 29 and allowing only five earned runs. Andrew Baker proved to be an impact arm in the Mallards bullpen as he posted a 2.28 ERA through 23.2 innings of work. Nate Brown, a Wisconsin native, made six starts and struck out 27 in 24.1 innings on the mound.
As the season winded down, the Mallards had an opportunity to battle for the final playoff spot with the Lakeshore Chinooks and the Kenosha Kingfish. However, the Chinooks won key ballgames down the stretch, eliminating the Mallards with a win over the South Division champion Wisconsin Rafters Rapids.
Best Ballpark of 2017 – After seeing the transformation of the brand new Great Dane Duck Blind suites and general admission area, Warner Park won BallparkDigest’s Best Summer-Collegiate Ballpark of 2017. Almost, 30,000 fans voted in the summer collegiate bracket of the Best of the Ballparks and Warner Park edged the Kalamazoo Growlers Homer Stryker Field in the final round. The Mallards set the pace for total attendance in all of summer collegiate baseball this summer. The Mallards welcomed 214,485 fans which almost doubled the next nearest team’s total. The total also topped the mark the Mallards set last year by nearly 10,000 fans. The Mallards averaged 6,308 fans per game which was by far the most in the nation. The La Crosse Loggers, the nearest Northwoods League organization, averaged 2,725 a game.
Mallards Welcome 3,000,000 Fan – On Thursday, June 22nd the Mallards welcomed their 3,000,000 fan to the Duck Pond. The lucky 3,000,000 fan was Emily Henderson. Emily won the ultimate fan experience package including season tickets, the opportunity to be a Mallard for a day, and more. The Mallards truly appreciate all of the fans that have made the last 17 years of Mallards baseball so incredible.
Mallards All-Stars – Outfielder Doran Turchin, shortstop Cole Daily, and starting pitcher Simon Rosenblum-Larson represented the Mallards in the 2017 NWL All-Star Game in Wausau. Daily and Turchin both made a large impact in the South Division’s 6-2 win. Both played the entire ballgame. Daily scored a pair of runs and also delivered a key single to knock in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. Turchin tallied two hits in four at bats and also knocked in a run. The three hits from the Mallards were the most hits in the game from any single NWL team.
Major League Dreams Showcase – Madison hosted the 2017 NWL Major League Dreams Showcase featuring seven Mallards players. Doran Turchin, Cole Daily, Zac Taylor, Luke Shilling, Tyler Dyson, Nate Brown, and Simon Rosenblum-Larson were all selected by Major League scouts to participate in the event. The Mallards led the Home squad to a win in the second game of the doubleheader as Daily had two hits and knocked in three runs. Meanwhile, Brown and Dyson both made scoreless appearances.
Postseason All-Stars – Doran Turchin, Cole Daily, and Simon Rosenblum-Larson would again be named All-Stars, this time joined by Tyler Dyson.
Statistical Leaders (Hitting) – AVG: Z. Taylor (.350) || HR: D. Turchin (13) || RBI: D. Turchin (50) || SB: C. Daily (19) || Hits: C. Daily (96) || Runs: C. Daily (72) || Doubles: Z. Taylor (13), J. Mitchell Jr. (13) || Triples: C. Daily (2) || BB: D. Turchin (54) HBP: B. Weimer (15) OBP: D. Turchin (.489) SLUG: Z. Taylor (.539) OPS: Z. Taylor (.967)
Statistical Leaders (Pitching) – Wins: M. Horkey (5) IP: M. Horkey (61.1) || ERA: S. Rosenblum-Larson (1.28) || SO: S. Rosenblum-Larson (60) || SV: D. Savino (5) || WHIP: R. Pawelski (.84) || BAA: L. Shilling (.163) || BB/9: T. Dyson (0.95) || K/9: L. Shilling (14.25)