While the All-Star Break provided a rest for the Madison Mallards, this weekend surely a changeof pace. After treacherous weather postponed the Mallards’ Thursday night game, they wereforced to play a double-header on Friday. The Mallards were able to come out with one of thevictories against the Eau Claire Express. Most importantly, they were able to save their energyfor Saturday’s double-header against the La Crosse Loggers, winning both games in decisivefashion.In the first game, the Mallards jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to a bases loaded 2 RBIsingle by catcher Adam Davis in the bottom of the first inning. Davis finished the game withthe lone hit, but managed another RBI in the third inning, scoring infielder Reed Gargnani andgiving Davis his 29th RBI of the season.The story of the game was Gargnani, who went 3-for-4 with both of his runs coming off of Davis.Gargnani picked up his sixth double of the season and now has two straight multi-hit games.More impressively, Gargnani has only six hitless games since June 22.Mallard’s infielder Jon Pierre Garcia’s solo homerun in the bottom of the sixth inning proved tobe the nail in the coffin for the Loggers, as they went on to lose 4-1. Junior pitcher Matt Morganpicked up his third win of the season for the Mallards, while pitcher J.R. Graham picked up hisfourth save of the year.The win enabled the Mallards to head into their second game of the day with a much deservedsense of confidence. Just like in their first game, the Mallards pounced all over La Crosseearly, expect this time they didn’t stop. Mallard’s outfielder Harold Riggins drove in 2 runs in thebottom of the first inning, with infielder Jacob Esch also driving in one run. The hit by Rigginsmarked the 32nd straight game he has reached base safely, which leads the league.The onslaught continued as the Mallards batted around the order in the second inning, puttingup six runs off of four hits. Four of the runs in the second inning came off of Garcia’s grandslam, which marked his second home run of the double header. As if the Mallards needed anymore runs, they continued to pour them on with a three-run inning in the fifth. The Mallardsended up crushing the Loggers 12-1. Mallard’s pitcher Matt LaMothe finished the game with 4strikeouts, picking up his third win of the season. Reliever Nick Rice picked up the save, his firstof the season.While the bats were hot in both games, especially the second game, the pitching was evenbetter. As a matter of fact, in their four games since the All-Star Break, the Mallards have onlygiven up a total of four runs, which is something manager C.J. Thielke is impressed by.“It all begins with starting pitching,” Thieleke said. “Our last four starters [LaMothe, Morgan,Uriegas and Shellhorn] are all providing the team with an effective top of the rotation and that’swhat we’re looking for.”This weekend not only proved to be huge in the standings for the Mallards, moving them intothird place in the division, it also provided a chance for manager Thielke to get a look at some ofthe guys on his bench.“The guys showed great energy,” Thielke said. “It was exciting to see guys, who don’t alwaysplay, produce for us. I think it says a lot about the kind of depth we have on this team.”The Mallards look to extend their win streak to four games heading into their final game of theseries against La Crosse Sunday night. With a win, they could move into a tie for second placewith the Wisconsin Woodchucks, setting them up nicely for a possible playoff-birth.
I should probably open this column by stating that I am from Houston, or Clutch City, and have been a Rockets fan my entire life. The team’s recent performance, however, is historic and deserving of praise from more than just Rocket fans.Only eight other teams in the NBA have ever come back from a 3-1 series deficit, as the Rockets did against the Clippers. Furhermore, the Rockets held the home court advantage, but forfeited it in the Game 1 blowout loss to the Clippers. The Rockets won Game 2 at home, but lost Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles. The Rockets won Game 5 in Houston, but the series went back to the Staples Center for a must-win Game 6.The Clippers had a 92-79 lead heading into the fourth quarter. It seemed the Clippers had all but punched their ticket to the Western Conference Finals. James Harden, the runner up for the MVP Award, was on the bench and Dwight Howard was in foul trouble. Josh Smith checked into the game, Corey Brewer and Trevor Ariza got hot, and the Rockets came back to win, 119-107 and force a Game 7.The Rockets’ momentum from Game 6 carried into Game 7 and Houston led the entire game. According to ESPN, in their biggest deficit in the third quarter of Game 6, there was a .1 percent chance that the Rockets would come back to win the series. Only eight teams before them had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit, making their series win not only improbable but historic.The MVP runner up will now have to face the reigning MVP Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors, who rarely drop games at home, will have home court advantage in the Western Semifinals. The Rockets will need all of their momentum to take a game in Oakland and win the series.The Warriors are an explosive offensive team accompanied by a top-ranked defense. James Harden will be without Patrick Beverley, who suffered a broken wrist. Brewer, Smith and Ariza will need to repeat their Game 6 performance if the Rockets have any chance of advancing to the Finals. Even if the Rockets route the Warriors, they’ll likely have to face LeBron James and the Cavaliers out of the East.Whether or not Houston can repeat its historic performance will likely be the deciding factor in the Western semifinal series.Reagan Estes is a sophomore majoring in public relations. She is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Wild Wild Westes,” runs every other Wednesday.