By Luke Tanaka, Radio Broadcaster
Kalamazoo, Mich. – The Battle Creek Bombers clinched its first I-94 Rivalry Series against the Kalamazoo Growlers, using a six-run seventh inning to come out victorious 8-5 in game one of Thursday's doubleheader.
Niko Pacheco (Cal State Fullerton) led the Bombers offense with two home runs and four RBIs. On the mound, Min Hsia (Taiwan) tossed a season-high 7 2-3 innings, allowing five runs on 10 hits, while striking out two. Kaleb McCurry notched his second save of the season, retiring all four batters he faced.
In the seventh, the Bombers took their first lead since the second inning with six runs. Trailing 3-2, Christian Helsel (Penn State) led the inning off with a double to deep left. Then, with one out, the Bombers drew consecutive walks to load the bases. Dan Swain (Siena) singled in Helsel and Gary Russo (Miami-Ohio) knocked in two with a single of his own. But the big blow was still yet to come. Pacheco ripped his second home run of the day, this time to straightaway left field, a three run shot to put the Bombers up 8-3.
Pacheco’s first home run, a solo shot in the second, put Battle Creek on the scoreboard in the second inning. But the lead was short lived as Growlers quickly answered with three runs in the bottom half of the second. Jordan Stading (Houston) and Alex Gasser (Arkansas) both singled, with Stading scoring when the throw from Lin Li (Taiwan) whizzed past Dre Gleason (Austin Peay) at first base and, with the catcher Pacheco backing up on the play, no one covered home plate. With Gasser on third, Corey Dempster (Southern California) homered to left, extending the Growlers’ lead to 3-1.
Both pitchers settled down from there as Kalamazoo starter Alex Kuisel (Academy of Art) tossed five innings of one-run ball, allowing just three Bomber hits. Hsia put up five consecutive zeros on the board after the second.
The Battle Creek rally began against the Kalamazoo bullpen. In the sixth, Li reached on an error and came around to score on the throwing error by the Growlers’ relief pitcher Aaron Tadian (Kent State). That set up a 3-2 score and the big Battle Creek seventh inning.
The Growlers would not go down without a fight, putting up two more runs on Hsia in the eighth. Justin Fletcher (Northern Illinois) doubled and scored on a two-out single by Stading. Gasser would be the last batter Hsia faced and he singled in the second run of the inning. McCurry forced a ground out to end the Kalamazoo threat.
McCurry pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to complete the ballgame.
Russo, Swain, and Matt Simmons (Gardner-Webb) all joined Pacheco with multi-hit games. Russo added two RBIs, while Swain pitched in with one knocked in and two runs scored.
Three Kalamazoo relievers combined for four innings and seven Bombers runs allowed. Sean Larner (Northwood), who gave up five of the runs, took the loss. Dempster provided the big swing of the bat for the Growlers with his home run. Gasser and Stading also recorded RBIs.
The Bombers look to remain perfect against the Growlers this season tonight when the two teams meet for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch at Homer Stryker Field.
The Battle Creek Bombers are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 22nd season of summer collegiate baseball, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 120 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Allen Craig (BOS) and Ben Zobrist (OAK). For more information, visit www.battlecreekbombers.com.
(Story photo courtesy of Battle Creek Photography and Design – Levi Green)