Joey Grabanski (left) and Patrick Mills (right) both homer in 19-10 loss. Photo and article by Brendan Nordstrom
KALAMAZOO, MI. – In their third straight Education Day and, therefore, their third straight 11:05 a.m. first pitch, the Battle Creek Battle Jacks (2-2) took a tough 19-10 loss at the hands of the Kalamazoo Growlers (1-3) at Homer-Stryker Field in Kalamazoo, MI to even up the I-94 series at one apiece.
The Battle Jacks struck first in the top of one with shortstop Fisher Pyatt taking the first pitch up the middle for a single. Adding on a hit into the infield gap for first basemen Joey Grabanski, designated hitter Robbie Merced was set up for an RBI rip into right field. With runners on the corners, Merced stole second, allowing Grabanski to score on the throw-down for an early 2-0 lead.
The Growlers responded after a lead-off walk from Battle Jack’s ace Jeremiah Newman set up a stolen base and, therefore, a runner in scoring position. Growlers shortstop Sam Kirkpatrick then chopped a grounder at Pyatt with a tough late bounce to reach base and score another, closing the gap by one. A groundout, strikeout, and a throw down to first by debuting Battle Jacks catcher Gabe Sotres to catch Growlers second baseman Brandon Moore leaning ended the inning without any further damage.
The Growlers then roared all the way back and more with a huge five-run second inning beginning with a lead-off walk and single to set up Kalamazoo catcher Daniel Pruitt for a sacrifice bunt that Sotres soared over Grabanski’s head to tie the game at two. Newman then beaned Growlers catcher Daniel Pruitt to load the bases for left fielder Ryan Dykstra. The Battle Jacks subbed in right-handed pitcher Cohen Nies, but he could not stop the damage as Dykstra hit a rocket triple to right-center field, clearing the bases. Growlers first baseman Blayne Robinson hit a single to score another before Nies struck out the side with Kalamazoo still taking a commanding 6-2 lead.
The Battle Jacks then tried to answer when left fielder Patrick Mills barrelled up a shot into the Bear Trap, the Growlers short porch in left field, for the team’s second-ever homer. That’s all BC could muster shortening Kalamazoo’s lead to three in the top of the third.
Nies let up a double and a walk letting RHP Hank Weiss get the call to the mound. Nies ended his performance on the mound with two hits, one earned run, and six strikeouts through 2.1 innings. Weiss walked one to load the bases before hitting Growlers right fielder Lawson Knight, allowing Kalamazoo to tack on another run for a 7-3 advantage.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Growlers opened the flood gates when Weiss hit the first batter and then awarded a walk two batters later. Kirkpatrick nailed a bouncer up the middle that scored two runs to extend Kalamazoo’s lead to six. The Battle Jacks then substituted in RHP David Stich Jr. who let up an infield single, which was followed up by three wild pitches and two walks. Overall, the Growlers plate eight on two hits to take an insurmountable 15-3 lead.
In the sixth, the Growlers walked three giving BC a run; however, the Battle Jacks responded by walking three and hitting another opening the door for designated hitter Gannon Andrews to hit a two-RBI single to center field and make it 17-4 in favor of Kalamazoo.
The seventh mirrored the sixth in the run column as Grabanski took a pitch to dead center field for a two-run homer. After BC pitcher Nathan Ross gave away two free bags to start the bottom of the seventh, another single cost the Battle Jacks a run.
The Battle Jacks then worked through their entire lineup in the top of the eighth including two hits and an error to score four runs of their own to cut the Growler’s lead to eight. The Growlers, of course, answered with an RBI single to center field off of position player Rafael Gomez Jr., the center fielder who took the mound in relief of Ross.
The Battle Jacks could not complete any miracle comeback going down in the top of the ninth to end a four-hour contest 19-10 in favor of Kalamazoo.
Despite losing by nine runs, the Battle Jacks actually outhit the Growlers 12-11. The pitching was the nagging problem with seven different arms on the mound, giving up 16 walks, eight HBP, and five wild pitches.
Standouts at the plate for the Battle Jacks include Patrick Mills and Joey Grabanski, each going yard and collecting a combined five RBIs. Additionally, right fielder Isaiah Gibbs went three for five and Gabe Sotres worked a hit and two walks in his debut.
The Battle Jacks will return to the diamond tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. in Traverse City against the Pit Spitters, who they played in the opening series.