Article by Brendan Nordstrom, Photo by Melissa Vozar
BATTLE CREEK, MI. – It was Education Day at MCCU Field, which meant a special 11:00 a.m. first pitch. The Battle Creek Battle Jacks (1-1) defeated the Traverse City Pit Spitters (1-1) by a score of 10-9 in a back-and-forth matchup.
The Battle Jacks found themselves in a hole early after starting pitcher Nick Davies struggled to find his footing, walking the first three batters of the game. A line single by Traverse City third basemen Hayden Jatczak scored the game’s first run. A double-play grounder helped out the Battle Jacks, but a run still crossed, extending the lead to two.
Davies again found himself in an early jam walking the first two batters faced in the second inning. Pit Spitters designated hitter Evan Orzech made him pay with a two-RBI triple. A fielder’s choice scored another, giving Traverse City a dominant 5-0 lead.
Battle Creek needed an answer in the bottom of the second and got one after an error and a single by second baseman Fisher Pyatt put runners at first and third with no outs. A sac-fly by right fielder Isaiah Gibbs broke Battle Creek’s silence. Center fielder Rafael Gomez Jr. singled and shortstop Robbie Merced cleared the bases with a double to deep centerfield to make it a 5-3 ballgame.
The Jacks put runners on in the third and fourth inning, but ended up stranding three with no runs to show for it. Meanwhile, Battle Jacks right-hander Keegan Batka was substituted in and was dealing allowing no earned runs and ringing up seven through 3.2 innings.
Behind Batka’s stellar performance, the Battle Creek bats got back hot in the bottom of the fifth inning beginning with a line single by left fielder Patrick Mills. Designated Hitter Aaron Dolney worked a walk setting up Battle Jacks catcher Billy Hancock for an RBI single. Pyatt then blooped a single into center field scoring another to knot the game at five apiece.
Batka was put into an early jam in the top of the sixth after an error by Merced was followed by back-to-back walks loading the bases. Batka threw four straight balls to walk the leading run in, but right-handed pitcher Dominic Hann was able to escape the threat with minimal damage.
It did not take long for the Battle Jacks to respond when Gomez Jr. started things off with a triple to right-center field. A throwing error by the Pit Spitters tied the game and put Merced on third. Three straight walks by Traverse City’s pitcher Chris Whelton scored the leading run before hitting Hancock to walk in another. Duncan Lutz came in relief for the Spitters and immediately hit Pyatt in the wrist to plate another. BC third baseman Dillon Kark grounded into a double play, but the fifth run of the inning crossed for a commanding 10-6 lead.
After Hann walked the first two batters in the seventh, Pit Spitter shortstop Camden Traficante hit a 2-RBI single to bring Traverse City back within a couple. Right-handed pitcher Brett Sanchez came in relief and held Traverse City.
After allowing runs in the sixth, seventh, and eighth inning, the Battle Jacks finally shut the door with help from Sanchez and recorded the first win in team history.
Overall, the Battle Jacks outhit the Pit Spitters eleven hits to seven, but Traverse City would record 12 walks compared to BC’s five. Both teams would have their troubles in the field with a combined seven errors.
Standouts at the plate for the Battle Jacks include a 4/4 day with four singles by Fisher Pyatt, a two-hit performance by Patrick Mills and Rafael Gomez Jr., and three RBIs by Robbie Merced.
The Battle Jacks will return to action tomorrow at 11:05 a.m. in game one of the I-94 Cup in Kalamazoo.