The Madison Mallards clinched a 2019 Northwoods League playoff spot after defeating the Green Bay Booyah on the road, June 30. In addition to an automatic first round play-off series, the Mallards claimed the Great Lakes West division first half title with a 24-10 overall record through the first 34 ballgames.
The first half of the season concluded on July 2 and the Mallards 25-11 overall record after the half was the highest of all the Northwoods League teams. Madison easily secured the playoff spot after consistently remaining in the first place spot in the Great Lakes West division through the entire first half of the summer.
During the first half of the summer the Mallards had gelled together to dominate as a team, and the organization had several key players that shone in their particular position among everyone in the league. Four Mallards earned spots on the Northwoods League Statistics Leaderboard during the first half of the season.
Mallards on the Northwoods League First Half Leaderboard:
Drew Benefield (Louisville) lead the league in home runs with nine.
Justice Bigbie (Western Carolina) lead the league in hits with 49.
Logan Michaels (Virginia) held the highest batting average with .412
Lowell Schipper (Richmond) earned fifth place for the most strikeouts with 35.
Right out of the gate, the Mallards began to reach new heights after starting the season with eight consecutive victories to notch another franchise first. Madison won the eight games by acquiring four sweeps, defeating the Kokomo Jackrabbits, Wisconsin Woodchucks, Wisconsin Rapids Rafters and Lakeshore Chinooks.
“You never expect to start like that, but it happened and that’s what you want to do, you want to get hot out of the gate fast,” Mallards Manager, Donnie Scott said. “I think it was because of the team chemistry, right away the players worked well together.”
This season, the team earned eight series sweeps and two triumphs in walk-off fashion.
“Come from behind wins are the formula to success,” Scott said. “This team has great confidence and don’t get discouraged when the score isn’t in our favor.”
Although the offense knew how to take care of business, the Mallards strong arms on the mound played a crucial part in the success as well. During the first 36 games, Madison had accumulated a 3.99 team ERA, the fifth best in the league.
“This is a great time during the season, because it’s when the teams have their best pitching,” Scott said.
The second half of the season began on July 3. The Mallards momentum was not as present the last half of the regular season as it was the first. Madison’s second half record was 17-19, sitting in fourth place in the Great Lakes West Division.
Shortly after the second half began, nine Mallards were selected to participate in the Northwoods League All-Star Game. The Mallards sent the most players to Waterloo on July 16, compared to any other team in the Northwoods League. The Mallards coaching staff of Donnie Scott, Shawn Brown and Daniel Goodbread served as the coaches for the Great Lakes Division team after the Mallards earned the first half title.
Mallards selected were AJ Archambo (Oral Roberts), Lowell Schipper (Richmond), Logan Michaels (Virginia), Theo Denlinger (Bradley), Justice Bigbie (Western Carolina), Ben Anderson (Georgia), Drew Benefield (Louisville), Drew Williams (San Jose State) and Timo Schau (Southern Wesleyan). Last summer, the Mallards sent eight players to the All-Star game, making this the second consecutive year they have the most players named to the roster.
Bigbie and Benefield were chosen to participate in the Home Run Derby event before the game. At the end of the evening, Bigbie garnered All-Star Game MVP honors after his stellar performance.
When the Northwoods League announced the rosters for the 2019 Major League Dreams Showcase, eleven Mallards were selected to participate. AJ Archambo (Oral Roberts), Eliot Turnquist (Madison College), Justice Bigbie, Austin Blazevic (Southeast Missouri), Leon Davidson (North Carolina A&T), Quinn Gudaitis (Illinois Wesleyan), Theo Denlinger (Bradley), Nick Gile (Madison College), Timo Schau, and Logan Michaels took part in the event. Madison sent ten players to the showcase, which is three more than the previous year. A majority of the players selected from the Mallards were also members of the Great Lakes Division All-Star roster.
Similar to the first half, the Mallards continued to be a solid hitting team. The overall team batting average was .294, one of the highest in the league.
Once again, Bigbie dominated the leaderboard during the second half in all three categories. For the regular season he lead the league in RBIs with 70, finished second in home runs with 12 and placed in the top ten for batting average. To add to his accomplishments, Bigbie was named the 2019 Northwoods League MVP and was one of thirty players selected to the league postseason All-Star team.
Last summer, the Madison Mallards ended their postseason run after being defeated by the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders in the first round. This year, the Mallards made it to the playoffs for the tenth time in franchise history, the fifth time under manager Donnie Scott. Madison has appeared in four Northwoods League Championship Series, which resulted in runner-up finishes in 2005 and 2008. They won the Northwoods League championship in 2004 and 2013.
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (46-26) ended the regular season in first place in the Great Lakes West Division standings and claimed the second-half spot in the playoffs and were slated as the Mallards opponent in the first round. The division rivals faced off in a best-of-three series that ended in a sweep for the Mallards.
After sending the Rafters home, the Mallards competed against the Traverse City Pit Spitters (52-20) for the Great Lakes Championship game. The Mallards fell short of the victory, after being defeated 3-2 at Pit Spitters Park.
Even with the season ending just one game short of the championship game, the Mallards had a franchise best start to the season and had several players shine on the league’s leaderboard throughout the summer.
The Madison Mallards will return in May of 2020 for their 20th season in Madison, Wisconsin.