When Madison Mallards pitcher Cody Winiarski got his passport in early June he never thought he would need to use it so soon.
The Madison Area Technical College alumnus only got it to be prepared in case he was chosen to represent the Mallards at the 2009 Northwoods League All-Star game in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
It looks like Winiarski will be making the trip to Canada after all as the 6-foot-3 right-hander was one of four Mallards players chosen to play for the South Division in the game.
“Cody is a smart pitcher,” said C.J. Thieleke, Mallards manager and MATC assistant coach. “He can give us seven good innings, and for the most part they’re pretty clean. He’s been an outstanding starter for us.”
After a strong season at MATC — Winiarski went 6-2 with a 2.40 ERA and 48 strikeouts over 58.1 innings pitched — the Wisconsin native also has enjoyed much success as a member of the Mallards.
In his most recent outing, Winiarski allowed just one run on two hits over six innings pitched in the Mallards’ 4-3 road victory over the La Crosse Loggers.
Winiarski now has a 5-2 record and a 1.65 earned run average through 54.2 innings pitched. He also has struck out 46 and held opponents to a mere .195 batting average, due in large part to his ability to get ahead of batters early in the count.
“I’ve been pretty successful working ahead of hitters,” Winiarski said. “When I don’t get ahead, I’ve been able to throw the changeup and get hitters out in front to get back.”
Another one of the keys to Winiarski’s success this season has been his team’s ability to score runs in bunches. On more than one occasion, Winiarski has benefited from the Mallards reaching double-digit runs while he held opposing batters in check.
As a result, he often has pitched in less stressful situations than he may have otherwise.
“Anytime your offense can put up double digits, it makes it way easier,” Winiarski said. “It takes off a lot of the pressure that you would otherwise feel in a one- or two-run ballgame.”
Winiarski’s most impressive outing of the season, according to Thieleke, came in a 12-0 home victory over the Waterloo Bucks on June 17, when Winiarski struck out eight over seven scoreless innings.
Although he struggled a bit in a couple innings, Winiarski escaped from trouble time and again, keeping the Bucks off the scoreboard and lowering his ERA that much more.
“He was outstanding,” Thieleke said. “It was as good an outing as he’s had this season, as far as establishing both sides of the plate. He just had a lot of poise to him and I’m proud.”
The junior also seems to feel right at home at the Duck Pond, the Mallards’ home ballpark located in Warner Park on the city’s east side.
Of the 10 earned runs allowed by Winiarski, more than half were surrendered on the road, and he has yet to take a loss in any home appearance.
“I don’t know what it is about this place,” Thieleke said. “I think it’s just that our fans do a good job of making that environment special. There’s something different to it than your normal night in this league.”
Winiarski — who was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 48th round of the 2007 MLB Draft — will have a new home when the summer ends, as his time with MATC is over after two impressive years that included a Male Athlete of the Year honor this past season and a perfect game in April of his freshman season.
The next stop for the Wisconsin Rapids native is a bit farther south as Winiarski will join the Virginia Cavaliers for his final two seasons of college eligibility. But with the way he’s pitched for both the Mallards and the Wolfpack, he’ll always remember where he started.
“I definitely love pitching here in Madison,” Winiarski said. “It’s exciting, and you’ve got to love the fans here.”