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Published On: July 3rd, 2020

KALAMAZOO, MI., — Tonight’s bout between the Bombers and Growlers can be summed up in just four words: men left on base. The two teams would combine for 20 men left on base in Battle Creek’s 2-0 win over its rival, the Growlers.

This was a serious issue on both ends, as the two teams had runners in scoring position in several scenarios but could not convert. The Bombers would start the trend as early as the top of the first inning, when they left Justin Van De Brake at third base and Joe Mason at first, as Bradley Goulet would ground out to end the inning. The Growlers would follow in the bottom of the fourth inning, where Shea Kramer grounded out, leaving the bases loaded. While both teams struggled, field manager Mike Ruppenthal expects the top of his lineup to get on track.

“For sure [it is hard to string hits together], we are seeing that with all three teams here,” Ruppenthal said. “I have a lot of faith in the top half of our lineup, they’ll start heating up. In the meantime, the bottom half is getting on base and finding ways to score, so that’s good.”

The bottom half of Ruppenthal’s lineup was able to produce tonight, as Josh Swinehart and Jimmy Wressel scored the only two runs of the game, as the seventh and eighth hitters in the lineup. Of the Bombers’ seven hits, five came from the bottom third of the batting order.

As for Battle Creek’s pitching staff, it performed extremely well, shutting out the Growlers and surrendering a combined one run over its first two games. Ryan Middendorf would start the game on short rest and battled hard. Middendorf pitched himself into trouble in all four innings of work, as he stranded one runner in the first, two in the second and three in the third. In 3.2 innings, Middendorf surrendered five hits and four walks but would record four strikeouts. At the end of the day, it might not have been the prettiest start of Middendorf’s career, but it certainly got the job done.

“He was able to step up on shorter rest and still get it done,” Ruppenthal said. “He didn’t have his stuff the whole outing, but he was able to make it through.”

The rest of the pitching staff did not necessarily have its best stuff, but they too were able to battle through.

“That’s what I was looking for building this team,” Ruppenthal said. “They’ve had their backs against the wall, and you’ve seen that [experience] the last few days.”

As for the Growlers, their pitching impressed for all but one inning. They limited the Bombers to 12 baserunners, but five of them came in the fourth inning against Twon Harris. Harris walked the first batter he faced in Swinehart and would surrender three straight singles, as the Bombers scored their only two runs against the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout. Seth Tucker and Van De Brake would record the two RBIs of the game.

While the Bombers ended up winning tonight, there is still a lot to improve on. The team has yielded six errors through two games, which is way too many for players of this caliber.

“You’re definitely not happy with a couple errors, but it is the same thing on the hitting side, there is just a little rust to be shaken off,” Ruppenthal said. “[When] we get a week or two into the season, everything will be fine.”

And for the Bombers, everything feels fine. Battle Creek’s win improves its record to 2-0, good for first place in the South Division of the Michigan Pod. The Bombers will play their third game of the season on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. It will be the first glance at the newest Northwoods League team, the Kalamazoo Mac Daddies who are 0-1 to start the season.