KALAMAZOO, MI., — Despite a 10-minute weather delay, the Battle Creek Bombers managed to win their third consecutive game against the Kalamazoo Growlers, this time to a tune of 3-0.
Battle Creek’s offense came out strong in the top of the first inning, as it scored one run off of a hit. TJ McKenzie led off the game with a single and reached second via the first of three stolen bases. Eventually he scored on an error from Kalamazoo’s catcher, Luke Stephenson. Stephenson’s throw back to Eamon Horwedel on the mound soared over his head and into the infield. It was McKenzie’s heads up baserunning, which saw him race to home before Horwedel could even pick up the ball.
After that blunder, Horwedel excelled in his start, using just 32 pitches to work through two innings. He allowed just two base runners, as Joe Mason worked a walk in the second inning, and yielded one unearned run. Horwedel was determined to be the losing pitcher, as his Growlers could not muster a single run through nine innings.
The starter opposing Horwedel was Battle Creek’s Pablo Arevalo who managed to get outs despite throwing a lot of pitches. Arevalo went four innings strong, giving up three hits, two walks and striking out five in 75 pitches.
In the top of the third inning, Arevalo led off with a strikeout to Blake Dunn with a full count. Dunn expected a called ball four, and when he did not get it, he turned to the umpire. This discussion led to Dunn and his manager, Cody Piechoki, being ejected from the game, as both argued the call.
Both sides were relatively quiet offensively, as they combined for one hit in the second and third inning. It was not until the top of the fourth where we would see the bats come alive, albeit only for a little while.
In the fourth, Justin Van De Brake led off the inning with a single as Adam Wheaton was on the mound for his second and final inning of the game. Trace Peterson followed up with a double of his own, but Van De Brake would not score until the fourth batter of the inning. Mason reached base for the second time and third overall, with a single, knocking in Van De Brake. Jimmy Wressel and Michael Morisette would end the inning after Mason’s single with a strikeout and groundout, respectively.
For the Growlers, it was more of the same as they could not touch any of the five pitchers on the mound for Battle Creek. Lyle Hibbits, who took over after Arevalo, and Christian Grigsby, who pitched in the seventh, allowed the final four base runners, as the Bombers limited Kalamazoo to just four hits and nine base runners as a whole. At the end of the day, the Bombers’ pitching staff was simply dialed in, and with the talent that it possesses, it makes it incredibly hard for anyone to score.
“We just have really good pitchers,” field manager Mike Ruppenthal said. “There are professional guys throughout that staff … and they haven’t really had any issues throwing strikes. If you throw good stuff in the zone, you’re going to get outs even against the good batters that the Growlers have.”
While the pitchers shone for Battle Creek, its offense continued to struggle. The Bombers only mustered six hits and left eight men on base. Despite the grind, a win is a win.
“I’d like everybody to hit more,” Ruppenthal said. “We had opportunities, just like every game we’ve had, to blow things open … It is an older group, they did enough to win, so I can’t really complain too much.”
The veteran squad tacked on an insurance run in the ninth, when Morisette scored on a wild pitch from submarine-pitcher, Will Mullen. Morisette started the inning with a single and was moved to second by Tucker.
In the bottom half of the inning, it was Grant Hartwig who recorded the save. It took him just 12 pitches to finish off the bottom half of the order, with two strikeouts.
Mason had a bounce back game for the Bombers, after starting the season 2-15. He reached base three times, via a walk, single and on an error by Brett Barrera. This comes after he fell to seventh in the lineup, as Ruppenthal hoped it would make it a touch easier for the Div. II All-American.
“I was just trying to take some pressure off of him, mix the lineup up today,” Ruppenthal said. “Just move some guys down [to] see what it looks like. Unfortunately, it did not really pay off too much on the offense, but we were able to come away with the win.”