Article and photo by Nevada Cullen
BATTLE CREEK, MI. — Pitching and timely hitting helped the Battle Creek Battle Jacks down the Kalamazoo Growlers in the first I-94 Cup game of 2022. The 6-2 win was the team’s fifth in a row against its rivals from the west.
Pat Mills quickly ignited the offense with a one-out ground-rule double to left center in the top of the first. Then, Joey Grabanski served a single into left to drive him home and put the Battle Jacks on the board.
The defense was on display in the second and third innings, as Kalamazoo twice lined into double plays. Grabanski caught a laser to turn two in the second.
Aaron Dolney led off the fourth with a double to left center. He stole home later in the inning after the Growlers threw down when Robbie Merced was swiping second, a play that doubled the Battle Creek lead.
Kalamazoo knotted the game at two apiece in the bottom of the inning with a sacrifice fly by Brandon Moore. Two runs scored on the play because of a throwing error.
Travis Cowan stranded a runner at third in the bottom of the next frame to complete his five innings of work. Despite walking six, he allowed just two hits and one earned run.
Dillon Kark’s first hit as a Battle Jack clinched his team the game. He sent a two-out single to center to plate Dolney and hand Battle Creek a 3-2 advantage.
The Battle Jacks scored exactly one run in each of the final four innings. Mills’ second hit was an RBI single, Kark’s second hit an RBI double and Grabanski gained his second RBI with a sac-fly to left.
Caleb Lanoux was outstanding in relief for Battle Creek. He tossed four scoreless innings, surrendering three hits, no runs and no walks, while punching out three.
The Battle Jacks (2-1) and Growlers (0-3) will rise with the sun again Thursday. First pitch is at 11:05 a.m.