Dixon Anderson began his season with Green Bay as a closer before moving to the starting rotation.
In Sunday’s game against Madison, Anderson started and closed his own game to lead the Bullfrogs to a 5-0 victory at the Duck Pond. The right-hander from California threw an impressive complete game five-hit shut out, striking out seven and walking just one.
The Mallards received a strong pitching performance of their own, as starter Cody Winiarski also went the distance, allowing five runs (two earned) on nine hits.
Defense made the difference in the game for the Bullfrogs, who turned three double plays in consecutive innings, allowing Anderson to escape unharmed after allowing the Mallards’ leadoff hitter to reach base in each of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“That’s huge,” Anderson said of the double plays. “You’ve got to love that. It keeps your pitch count down. I think my coach said I only threw 105 pitches today, which I attribute to my infield playing good defense and, you know, a couple double play balls that really helped me out.”
The Bullfrogs weren’t the only ones turning double plays, however, as the Mallards also turned four in the first five innings, keeping the game from getting even more out of hand. The problem for Madison came in a handful of sloppy defensive plays to go along with the key double plays. Shortstop Jake Esch was the main culprit, as he was charged with a pair of throwing errors and a fielding error on the night.
Winiarski was not quick to blame Esch or the defense, though. He instead chose to praise the double plays turned in the first, second, third and fifth innings.
“Over the last two weeks our pitching staff has been struggling even though our defense and hitting has been pretty good,” Winiarski said. “You’ve got to take it as it comes, because one day we’re going to be good and they’re going to be bad.”
Green Bay got on the board early as leadoff hitter Joel Hutter reached base on an Esch error and a pair of bunt singles loaded the bases. Winiarski managed to limit the damage, though, as he got cleanup hitter Jacob House to roll over into a double play and the Bullfrogs would get just one run in the first.
The Bullfrogs opened the game up in the second with three singles, a walk and another Esch error leading to three runs in the frame.
“Cody did a tremendous job cutting it off at one in the first,” manager C.J. Thieleke said. “I was just trying to…hopefully limit the second inning to one run, and we just made some mistakes. It’s kind of just a microcosm of the way the year’s gone.”
Making the loss even more disappointing for the Mallards was a 4-3 home win Sunday by the La Crosse Loggers, officially eliminating Madison from playoff contention.
Thieleke credited Anderson’s strong pitching performance to his team’s inability to come away with a victory in a must-win situation.
“If you’re going to lose (and) if you’re going to go down, you want to go down to a kid that commanded and had a legit arm,” Thieleke said. “[Anderson]’s been good since they made the move taking him out of the bullpen and putting him in the rotation. …He beat La Crosse, I think, his last outing and he beat us too.”
The loss for the Mallards makes for a tough end to what has been an exciting season and thrilling last week of the second half of the season. Madison started the season hot, jumping out to a 12-3 record over the first two weeks before dropping off to the finish four games back in the first half.
The Mallards have been impressive in the second half, especially when considering the team sent four representatives to the Northwoods League All-Star game in Thunder Bay. Unfortunately for Madison, however, the team’s pitching fell apart over the last two weeks, letting its lead slip in the South Division. Now, the Mallards face a relatively meaningless final game Monday at the Duck Pond.
“There been very few games that we’ve ever had with this organization in the last six years that have meant nothing,” Thieleke said. “We’ll go out and play the game and try to treat it as professionally as we can. We’ll get everybody in there and give everybody one last chance to play on the field and enjoy the experience.”