Lyons, Stowers help propel Mallards to victory, sweep Bullfrogs

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The Duck Pond. Image: Ben Leadholm

By: Ben Leadholm

MADISON, Wis.—Magic was in the air as the Madison Mallards celebrated Harry Potter Day at the Duck Pond, after an apparent blowout following the first inning became quite the nail biter, as the Mallards held on to beat the Green Bay Bullfrogs 8-5 Sunday afternoon.

The Mallards (35-23 overall) jumped on Green Bay stating pitcher Jacob Padilla, who was making his season debut for the Bullfrogs, for six first-inning runs. Shortstop Nico Hoerner and second baseman Matt McCann started the inning with back-to-back singles. After a sacrifice bunt, Nelson Maldonado slapped an RBI triple off the center field wall, scoring Hoerner and McCann. Right fielder Zach Jarrett followed with an RBI single of his own, scoring Maldonado and giving the Mallards a quick 3-0 lead. Following a run-scoring sacrifice, Jesse Medrano followed with a two run single, extending the lead to 6-0 and forcing Padilla out of the game after only 2/3 of an inning.

“All our guys were on time hitting the ball on the barrel,” Medrano said about his team’s success in the first inning. “We had like six hits and six runs, just sticking to the fundamentals and picking each other up when we were in scoring position.”

Madison’s Alex Lyons (4.0 innings, five hits, two runs, three walks and two strikeouts) came out of the bullpen to make his first start of the season. He admitted he was experiencing some early nerves, but the quick offensive start helped calm them.

“Just a bit of butterflies, but once I got up on the mound they went away and I was ready to go,” Lyons said. “When the bats are going like that it gives a good confidence boost to go out there and know that your teammates are behind you.”

Lyons’ teammates appreciated his effort in his new role.

“Lyons is a good pitcher. I’m sure he could be a starter if he wanted to, but he’s just more valuable to us in the bullpen. Today he came out and gave us three or four solid innings of work,” Left fielder Josh Stowers said. “For him to not start all year and then come in and throw like that, that’s what we needed.”

“After having a few guys go down in unfortunate situations, having to leave, whatever it is, guys got to step up and he came out today and pitched really well for us. It’s also good when we play good defense behind him,” Medrano said.

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Image: Ben Leadholm

The Bullfrogs, however, would not go away quietly, scoring five unanswered runs to pull within a run at 6-5 after the fifth inning. Designated hitter Chris Botsoe provided the fireworks with his three-run home run to left field in the fifth inning.

Green Bay put runners on first and second after back-to-back walks in the seventh inning, but reliever Luke Shilling (W, 2.0 innings, one hit, zero runs, two walks and three strikeouts) was able to strike out Matthew Hoeg to get out of the jam.

Controversy clouded the eighth inning after Green Bay’s Austin Clemons was originally called out at first after a wild throw from the shortstop caused the first baseman to stretch in order to catch the ball. After Green Bay manager Darrell Handelsman argued with the first base umpire, the umpires gathered and reversed the call. However, four pitches later, Marcus Shoemaker hit into a slick 5-4-3 double play, causing him to slam his helmet in frustration.

Madison was held in check by the Bullfrogs bullpen, allowing only three hits following Padilla’s early exit. Pitcher Logan Elliot had a string of four straight strikeouts, all looking.

That bullpen dominance, however, would end in the bottom of the eighth inning. Center fielder Cameron Frost led off the inning with a double. Stowers then blasted a two-run home run to left field for two critical insurance runs.

“In the eighth inning before I went up to the plate, Donnie [manager Donnie Scott] told me to look for something to hit,” Stowers said. “The kid gave me a pitch I liked and I hit it out.”

“The kid gave me a pitch I liked and I hit it out.”

Reliever Mitch Vogrin picked up the two inning save and secured the series sweep for the Mallards.

The Mallards tallied 13 hits, led by Hoerner with three. Meanwhile, Green Bay had eight team hits.

With the Northwoods League regular season quickly coming to a close and a playoff berth on the line, the Mallards aren’t feeling the pressure.

“I think we’re ready,” Lyons said. “We know it’s time to buckle down and everybody knows the job they need to do to get this thing going and end up where we need to be.”

“Just keep with what’s working, getting runners in scoring position and getting them to cross home plate,” Medrano added. “Pitchers have been pitching well, pounding the strike zone and the defense has been sticking to the fundamentals and having fun out there.”

Stowers agrees with Medrano that the team is playing well together as a unit.

“We’re playing really good baseball right now. Our pitchers are throwing strikes and we’re hitting the ball really well,” Stowers said. “I think we’re going to be on a win streak from here on out, we’re going to make the playoffs and make a good run.”

Madison returns to action Monday morning for a home and home doubleheader with the Rockford Rivets. Game one begins at 11:35 a.m. at the Duck Pond and game two begins at 6:35 p.m. in Rockford, Illinois.

GAME NOTES:

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    The Harry Potter uniforms the Mallards wore. Image: Madison Mallards

    Kids had the opportunity for postgame autographs and to run the bases after the game, while getting high-fives from Mallards players.
  • During the postgame festivities, a couple got engaged on the pitcher’s mound.
  • The Mallards wore special Harry Potter jerseys, which were then raffled off for charity.
  • Sunday’s attendance was 6,750.
  • Game time was three hours and five minutes.