O’Hara shines as Mallards top Woodchucks

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Madison Mallards pitcher Ryan O'Hara [Madison Mallards/Northwoods League photo]

Pitcher Ryan O’Hara dazzled in a breezy starting debut Friday night, leading the Madison Mallards to a 6-2 victory over the Wisconsin Woodchucks’ at Warner Park. 

O’Hara said the feeling after his success was incomparable.

“There’s nothing like it,” O’Hara said. “There’s so much hard work that goes into this. We lift all year. We throw all year. We do everything to be able to perform on that mound.”

O’Hara’s show-stopping performance left the Woodchucks with just one hit and two walks in his six shutout innings, lowering his ERA from 2.00 to 1.20. Pitching coach Leon Davidson said the reliever-turned-starter earned his chance at the promotion.

“We tell all these guys the same thing. If you want a position, you go out there and you prove it,” Davidson said. “You go out there and grind for it, and that’s exactly what he did.” 

O’Hara’s supporting cast did just enough to keep the spotlight on him. First baseman Matthew Scannell’s RBI walk in the third off Woodchucks starter Nate Madej and center fielder J.T. Benson’s run-scoring singles in the fourth and sixth against reliever Geo Camfield kept Madison on script 3-0. Benson said his pre-game batting practice with his manager Donnie Scott and hitting coach Ryne Stanley helped get him swinging true.

Friday’s star pitcher was yanked off the stage after retiring 10 straight batters. In the seventh, after Mallards reliever Kyle Subers loaded the bases with one out, his substitute Jared Fong walked Woodchucks first baseman Tyler MacGregor and surrendered a sacrifice groundout to catcher Colten Vincent to make it 3-2. 

Davidson said O’Hara was pulled because they didn’t want to overextend him in his debut.

“That’s something that we’re not going to do here,” Davidson said. “We’re not going to burn arms.”

Later in the seventh, Mallards catcher Drake Baldwin delivered more entertainment with a two-RBI double into left center field off Shane Telfer, and shortstop Nick Gonzales’ follow-up single proved to be the closing act in a 6-2 victory. 

Benson said that Scott’s efforts to gel the team’s disparate parts helped the team rip off 13 hits.

“We’ve come a long way. Beginning of the season, we didn’t have much going for us, not much chemistry, didn’t know each other, all came from different places,” Benson said. “I think now Donnie’s just done a great job of getting us all together and becoming a real team.”

According to Davidson, the Mallards’ plan to keep the three-game winning streak going Saturday night against the Woodchucks is simple.

“Don’t change a thing,” Davidson said.

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