ROCKFORD, IL – In the scorching 95 degrees, the Battle Creek Battle Jacks (9-5) and Rockford Rivets (7-8) were able to match the heat with their bats as the Battle Jacks walked away as winners in a 15-9 affair. A combined 24 runs and 32 hits made the contest one of the most exciting of the young season.
As is tradition, the Battle Jacks struck first, crossing one in the top of the second thanks to BC catcher Billy Hancock’s leadoff double. Right fielder Jace Matkin started off his hot day with an RBI-double to left field to take a quick 1-0 lead.
The lead dissipated fast with Rockford answering immediately with a massive five runs in the bottom of the second inning. Rivet third baseman Dylan Robertson started off with a single to left field before shortstop Brandon Bannon singled to plate the first run. Debuting left fielder Thaxton Berch hit another single before DH Colton Klein tripled to clear the base paths. Center fielder Ty Crittenberger hit a two-run rocket over the left-field wall for a 5-1 lead.
Where the Battle Jacks would normally freeze, they responded with a pair at the top of the third. Shortstop Robbie Merced started it off with a triple to left field and immediately was scored by center fielder Bobby Nichols, who hit an RBI groundout. Left fielder Patrick Mills walked and Hancock hit a single to center to set up first baseman Joey Grabanski for an RBI single, cutting the lead to two.
In the ping pong match of a game, Rockford came back and plated four in their next at-bats. A leadoff walk followed by a double ended RHP Jackson Braden’s day on the mound. RHP Nathan Ross came in relief and gave up a pair of singles, a double, and a pair of sac-flys to make the game seemingly insurmountable at 9-3.
The largest deficit that the Battle Jacks had crawled out of prior to today’s match was five runs against Traverse City; however, Battle Creek put up an astounding nine runs on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth. It was all started by Matkin’s lead-off home run hammered over the left-field wall to put a charge into the offense. Merced singled setting up a hit and error for Bobby Nichols to put the first run across. Second baseman Fisher Pyatt walked for Hancock, who singled for an RBI. Grabanski singled to left field to load the bases before DH Aaron Dolney walked in another run. RHP Zach Kempe came up in relief to face off against Jace Matkin, who sent a bomb to dead center for a grand slam and his fifth RBI of the inning. BC wasn’t done yet as a pair of walks set up Nichols again for an RBI single. This capped off an unheard-of nine-run inning and a 12-9 lead.
After bleeding out nine runs in the second and third inning, Battle Creek reliever shut the door on Rockford the rest of the night allowing no more runs. Nate Ross ended his day with 5.0 IP, five hits, five strikeouts, and only two earned runs. Anthony Tejeda joined in during the eighth inning and struck out five of his eight batters faced.
Battle Creek, on the other hand, was not done scoring. Mills started the fifth inning with a double and was eventually scored by none other than Jace Matkin with an RBI single to center field. In the seventh inning, Hancock walked and Matkin reached on an error for third baseman Dillon Kark, who hit a left-field double, scoring two. Battle Creek ended the day with a 15-9 victory.
Rockford, who led the league in errors coming into the contest, did themselves no favors with five more in this game.
With eight of the nine players in the lineup earning a hit, there were several standouts at the dish. Billy Hancock went 3/5 with a double and an RBI, Bobby Nichols went 2/6 with three RBIs, and Patrick Mills went 2/5 with a pair of doubles. Of course, Jace Matkin earns the game’s crown with an astounding four hits in six appearances, two home runs, including a grand slam, and seven RBIs.
The Battle Jacks will return to action bright and early tomorrow morning at 12 p.m. EST for game one of the doubleheader versus Rockford.