The Madison Mallards made the most of their first game in more than 20 months, handily beating the Lakeshore Chinooks 7-2 Monday night.
The first inning spelled out the game’s themes for the Mallards: red-hot hitting and clutch pitching. Mallards starting pitcher Ryan Lauk’s steady hand helped him escape a bases-loaded, one out jam in the top of the inning with back-to-back swinging strikeouts. Madison frustrated the Chinooks offense and stranded several base runners throughout the game.
Following that, designated hitter Josef Kalafut wacked a two-out single with the bases loaded to score third baseman J.T. Benson and help the Mallards draw first blood. A wild pitch later and the Mallards had clawed their way to a 2-0 lead after the first inning.
After Chinooks third baseman Dalton Boyle’s two-out RBI single in the top of the fifth kept Lakeshore’s heads above water and cut the game to 2-1, the Mallards’ offense erupted in the bottom half of the inning with four runs. Benson capped off the night’s hit parade, and earned himself player-of-the-game status, with a two-out RBI double in the eighth to push Madison ahead 7-1 and seal the Mallards' status as champions of the night.
“I just like looking at the bat and telling myself to be present and just be thankful that I’m here and being able to be up in the box again. It’s just such a humbling feeling being here again,” Benson said.
The Mallards look to sweep the Chinooks on Tuesday night in game two of the series.