Mallards’ playoff hopes fade after loss to Woodchucks

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A brief spurt of light rain in the top of the third inning didn’t stop play, but Sunday afternoon's 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Wisconsin Woodchucks might have put a serious damper on the Madison Mallards' Northwoods League playoff hopes.

“Anything can really happen...we’ll be alright,” Madison Mallards starting pitcher Joseph Kalafut said, trying to maintain a positive attitude after his team fell 3.5 games behind the Woodchucks in the Great Lakes West division standings with seven games to play.

After retiring his first six batters, Kalafut struggled early on in the top of the third, allowing a leadoff hit-by-pitch and a one-out RBI double to cut an early two-run cushion in half. Later on in the inning, Woodchucks center fielder Kevin Kilpatrick followed up second baseman Harrison Long’s game-tying single with a two-run homer, pushing Wisconsin in front 4-2.

Kalafut admitted his command started to wane in the third.

“Location wasn’t really well on my pitches,” Kalafut said. “The first two innings my slider was working really well. That’s how I got a lot of strikeouts early on...it [my slider] started not being as tight as it was, leaving it up a little bit.”

The stormy third drowned out Mallards first baseman Tyler Dean’s clutch two-out, two-RBI single in the first inning. Madison’s red-hot hitting largely froze up afterward, as the Mallards stranded 11 baserunners in the game. Dean said he still thought his team’s offense played well despite the missed opportunities.

“I thought we hit the ball fine,” Dean said. “Some days it happens. Some days it doesn’t. It’s just the bottom line.”

The Woodchucks tacked on insurance runs in the sixth and ninth for the ultimate 6-2 score.

 Dean said the team plans to recharge for the crucial doubleheader on Monday.

“We’re going to have a nice dinner. We’re going to go to bed. We’re going to wake up and kick some butt tomorrow,” Dean said.

The Mallards look to cook up some more offense and keep their playoff hopes alive Monday at Warner Park in a doubleheader against the Green Bay Booyah. First pitches are slated for 4:05 and 6:35 p.m.

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