Sunday night's game couldn't have started much worse for the Madison Mallards and starting pitcher Sam Forkert. Visiting La Crosse led off the game with a home run. The next guy up also went deep. Forkert hit the third guy and then surrendered another home run to the fourth batter.
"Coach [Greg Labbe] came to me before the game and said I was going to pitch middle relief," says Danny Sullivan, a sophomore from Dodgeville who played for Madison College last spring. "I usually do long innings in case guys get in trouble early, but I can go one or two innings, too. Right after that second home run, he told me to get down to the bullpen and warm up right away."
Sullivan took the ball after Forkert gave up hits to the first two batters in the second inning and proceeded to shut down the Loggers, surrendering no hits and just two walks to the next 20 batters and striking out six.
A lot of the Mallards are from big-time Division I schools (Florida, Missouri, Virginia), but a strong relationship between the team's front office and Madison College means a WolfPack player gets a shot each year. Sullivan has done as much with the opportunity as any, compiling a 2.14 ERA over 33 innings of action and distinguishing himself for his control and command of his pitches.
"They accept you as a pitcher, a baseball player," says Sullivan of his teammates. "Knowing that you have the ability to play with guys at that level and do the things they're doing is a huge confidence builder."
Throwing six innings of no-hit baseball after getting thrown into a tough situation should also build confidence. Having graduated from Madison College, he's trying to decide this week between Winston-Salem State and Michigan's Davenport University for his next stop.
"I think they both want me to be a starter," says Sullivan. "But if they want me to go to the bullpen, I'll do that. Whatever the team wants me to do."