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Battle Creek Puts on an Offensive Show, Defeat Growlers for Fourth Time

KALAMAZOO, MI., — For the first time in the 2020 season, the Bombers finally exploded offensively, as they scored 11 in a 11-7 victory over the Growlers.

The first few innings were relatively quiet on both sides, as neither side saw a runner reach third base. It was Nate Wargolet who started for Kalamazoo and pitched very well, allowing one hit and a walk, while striking out two. 

Ryan Middendorf started for the Bombers and lasted four innings, while working two one, two, three innings. It was not until the fourth inning when Middendorf gave up his only run of the outing, as Ben Van Cleve knocked in Trent Quartermaine via a fielder’s choice. Middendorf ended his day with two hits, two walks and four strikeouts.

Prior to Middendorf’s earned run, the Bombers scored eight runs in the top half of the inning. It started with a leadoff walk for Trace Peterson, who ended the day 1-5 with a walk while also reaching on an error. It was followed up with a pair of singles to load the bases for Tyler Wardwell. Wardwell picked up his first two RBIs of the season with a double, scoring Peterson and Josh Swinehart. The next batter, Nate Stolze, cleared the bases with a two-RBI double of his own, scoring Bradley Goulet and Wardwell. Stolze eventually scored on a Joe Mason at bat in which he reached on an error from Van Cleve. Justin Van De Brake scored on the very next play, as Brett Barrera committed another error which helped Trace Peterson get on base for the second time that inning. The final pair of runs for the fourth inning scored thanks to a two-RBI triple from Swinehart. Grant Jebbia was the pitcher in that fourth inning, giving up eight runs, six of which were earned. He finished the day with a loss, as well as six hits, a walk and a strikeout. From that point on, the Bombers maintained a lead for the remainder of the game. Field manager Mike Ruppenthal thought the repetition of the season helped his hitters perform tonight.

“Cody has thrown his guys every other game, so getting to see them several times, [this being] our fourth game against them, everybody has had multiple at bats against their pitchers,” Ruppenthal said. “That helped and I think the approach overall was just better today.”

The very next inning, the Bombers scored two runs as Stolze hit a two-run homerun on top of the Miller Lite Bear Trap, the short porch in left field. 

Evan Ingram made quick work of the Growlers in the bottom of the fifth, earning the win in just 14 pitches.

It would take the Growlers two innings to respond, as they scored a pair in the bottom of the sixth. Barrera and Quartermaine led off the inning with a walk and single, respectively. The two scored on back-to-back at bats, as a Shea Kramer groundout sent Barrera home, while Van Cleve would reach first base on a fielder’s choice that scored Quartermaine. Nothing really surfaced offensively for the Bombers that inning, aside from a walk to Wardwell.

While the Bombers offense powered Battle Creek to a win, it did not play a perfect game.

“We broke through,” field manager Mike Ruppenthal said. “They still left some guys on base, but they swung it really well tonight.”

A lot of those base runners were left on base in the seventh and eighth inning, as the Bombers had bases loaded with one out on both occasions. In the seventh, Cody Gabriel relieved Chris Brown who walked three straight batters. Gabriel worked magic, getting Mason to fly out to Kramer. He followed that with a pair of strikeouts, keeping the score at 10-3. In the eighth, Gabriel walked the bases loaded in four batters but was replaced by Trey Nordmann. Nordmann allowed one run but got out of the jam with an inning-ending flyout. 

While the score did not really show it, the Bombers were dominant through most of the game, as they led 11-3 entering the ninth inning. Seth Tucker started the ninth for the Bombers in his first appearance on the mound since last summer. Ruppenthal expects Tucker to pitch later in the season and used the big eight run cushion as a chance to shake some of the rust off.

“He started a game for us last year [and] did not pitch this spring in the shortened season, so I just wanted to get him back out there,” Ruppenthal said. “The fact that it has been a year since he has pitched, I can’t really fault him for his performance today, but I think it will get better.”

Tucker allowed two hits, two walks and hit one batter. He was replaced by Nolan Lamere after just one-third of an inning of work. After that, it was smooth sailing for the Bombers, as Lamere strukout Kramer and got Khale Showers to end the game with a flyout to Michael Morisette.

This was the first appearance for a handful of Bombers’ pitchers, as Keith Carpenter, Mitchell Lee and Jacob Henry entered the game. Combined, they threw three innings, allowing four hits, three walks and two runs. Ruppenthal was excited to get more pitchers into the game.

“It was awesome,” Ruppenthal said. “We did not have the right situation [to play them] until today … Overall, it was pretty positive.”

The Bombers improved to 5-1 overall and 4-0 against the Growlers. Battle Creek looks to extend that winning streak on Sunday night, as it faces off against the Growlers for the third time in as many days. First pitch is expected for 7:35 p.m.