Madison Fights Until End, Fall at Home
Mallards stick with league’s-best Rafters in dramatic contest
Madison, WI – The Mallards had dropped 18 of the last 22 ballgames to the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, including an eleven game losing streak entering their eleventh matchup of the season on Wednesday night at Warner Park. Madison came in on a six-game losing skid which included a Wisconsin Rapids sweep last week. Although the Rafters were able to come away with a 14-13 win, the fight from the Mallards tonight was the best players, staff, and fans had seen all season.
The Rafters got off to an explosive start on back-to-back solo home runs to lead off the game from Brady Jurgella and Chase Call off Mallards’ left-handed starter Reed Butz. Wisconsin Rapids added one more run later in the inning on a Jacob Igawa sacrifice fly. Butz settled in for the next inning and a half in his final appearance of the summer before Colin Tuft drove in Jurgella in the top of the 3rd.
Madison then got to action on the offensive side. Rafters’ starter Ben Amon was working rapidly through the Mallards’ order with his quick pace until the bottom of the 3rd. J.J. Rollon knocked in the Ducks’ first run while legging out a fielder’s choice. Josh Caron (2-5, 4 RBI, SF) plated the second run of the inning on a single to cut the lead in half. A handful of walks and the only error of the ballgame tabbed against the Mallards in the top of the 5th scored two for Wisconsin Rapids, giving the team, who now holds the Northwoods League record in wins for a single season (55), a 6-2 advantage. The Rafters were able to muster two more runs in the top of the 6th after Chris Conniff led off the inning with a triple that got caught in the lights in deep center field.
After the Rafters took the 8-2 lead, Madison’s offense ignited. They tied their season-high for runs in a single inning with eight. The first nine batters of the frame all reached base including five consecutive base on balls issued by Ethan Peters. Wisconsin Rapids’ Manager Kirk Shrider went to the bullpen mid-inning for the first time all season to call on Angel Medina. The first batter faced by Medina was the first of the two former Sun Prairie High School graduates, Liam Moreno (3-6, 3 RBI, 2B). Moreno doubled to deep right field on a fly ball that just flew past the outstretched arm of Colin Tuft to tie the game at 8-8. With the anticipation at a season-high, enter Josh Caron. In a 2-2 count, Caron took a hanging breaking ball from Medina and sailed it over the left field wall to send Warner Park into a frenzy, giving the Mallards their first lead of the night, 10-8.
Madison handed the ball to Mau Villegas in relief pitching with the lead. The freshman from Ripon College struggled with command as ten batters came to the plate in a four-run inning for the visitors that only included two hits; one from Andrew Semo and another from Chase Call. The lead fell right back into the hands of the playoff-bound Rafters, 12-10. J.J. Baez entered from Madison’s bullpen with the bases loaded and was able to strikeout Semo to end the long inning.
The Mallards offense was not done after the stretch. The first two Mallards reached on a Luke Stoner walk and a Davis Hamilton single. Miguel Larreal (1-3, RBI, ROE, 2 BB) shot a ground ball right back to Medina who sailed the throw to third marking the only Rafters error of the contest. That allowed Stoner to score and put two runners in scoring position. After a Rollon pop-out, Moreno came through again with a single up the middle and Caron followed with a sacrifice fly to center to score the speedy Larreal.
After recording the first out in the away 8th, Baez walked Rafters’ All-Star third baseman Garrett Broussard to put the tying run aboard. He rolled a fielder’s choice to pick up the second out. Aidan Brewer, who has struggled against Madison this season, skied a fly ball to left field that flew just beyond the fence for a go-ahead two-run homer to make it 14-13, Wisconsin Rapids.
The Rafters turned to Connor Kurki in crunch time for the Mallards’ offense. After a one-out bunt single from Rollon, Kurki was able to strike out the side by punching out Moreno and Caron to win their 55th game on the record-breaking campaign.
The Mallards travel to Witter Field in Wisconsin Rapids tomorrow for the final date between the two clubs. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 PM and game action can be found on the Northwoods League Baseball Network with pregame programmed for 6:10 PM.
The Madison Mallards are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. Now in its’ 29th season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 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, 300 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time All-Star and 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner Curtis Granderson, three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series Champion Max Scherzer (NYM), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and World Series Champion Chris Sale (BOS). As well as 2019 Rookie of the Year and 2019/2021 Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso (NYM) and 2021 All-Star, MLB Gold Glove winner and 2019 Second Team All-MLB shortstop Marcus Semien (TEX). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. League games are viewable live at watchnwl.com and on ESPN+. For more information, visit www.mallardsbaseball.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Mallards as your favorite team.