By Sedric Granger
Battle Creek, MI – The Battle Creek Battle Jacks flipped the script on their late game struggles to take down the first place Green Bay Rockers, 5-3, on Father’s Day. This is the second series in a row in which the Battle Jacks have taken down a team that was leading their division.
Going into the matchup, Field Manager Chris Clark knew that the team needed to make some adjustments.
“Yesterday was one of the first days that I was disappointed in the competitiveness of our at bats.” said Clark before the game with conviction. “I had a discussion with the team about that. Offensively, we are going to do a much better job competing today in the box.”
The Battle Jacks backed up Clark’s words by generating better plate appearances whether by driving up the pitch count, taking pitches that were away from the zone, or swinging at favorable pitches. Although the Battle Jacks only scored two runs last night, the improved offensive prowess resulted in five runs coming across the plate on ten base hits.
Despite the win, Green Bay made the game a huge challenge for Battle Creek, especially early on. The Rockers took a one run lead on three separate occasions in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th innings. However, the Battle Jacks had a response each time. For the second day in a row, Brock Daniels (Missouri) was a spark plug for the Battle Jacks offense.
“I see the ball up, try to get it on time, and put a good swing on it,” said Daniels with a smile. “I wake up in the morning, I put my socks on and try to go out there and hit a double.”
Daniels hammered three doubles throughout the series, including two in the, 5-3, victory. Daniels finished the day two-for-four at the plate with two runs scored and a stolen base. Overall, Kyle Ratliff (SIUE), Jake Allgeyer (Western Illinois), Charlie Rhee (San Diego State), and Dave Alleva (West Chester) each drove in a run for the Jacks. In addition, Spencer Verburg (Central Michigan), Blake McRae (Eastern Michigan), and Fisher Pyatt (Central Arizona College) scored runs for the Battle Jacks. Although the Blue and White struggled to score in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings throughout the season, the offense surged for three runs late in the game to give the pitching staff the run support they needed to finish off the Rockers.
Hunter Varnadoe (Middle Georgia State) and Dylan Howanitz (West Chester) combined to throw nine solid innings for Battle Creek. Varnadoe earned the win, pitching a quality start by yielding only three earned runs in a season high seven innings of work. The right-handed pitcher out of Middle Georgia State gave a lot of credit to the defense behind him.
“I was grinding today, and I told Coach Clark at the end of the sixth that I got one more for you,” said Varnadoe triumphantly. “The defense behind me was big time. I did not have all my punch out stuff today, so I relied on my ground ball stuff today. The defense got it done.”
Howanitz earned his fourth save of the season, pitching two shutout innings in the 8th and 9th. Howanitz continues to be one of the top relief pitchers for the Battle Jacks.
“You have to be comfortable in the uncomfortable situations in baseball. Since that is something that I did at West Chester, I was used to it,” said Howanitz when asked about his mentality on the mound. “When you got a group of teammates that you love so much, you do it for them more than you do yourself.”
Howanitz showed ice in his veins in the 9th, striking out the final batter with the tying run for Green Bay on the basepaths.
The Battle Jacks (7-12) have excelled at making adjustments ahead of second games of series. They are now 5-4 on the season in game twos. Battle Creek starts a six-game road trip with a game at Rockford on Monday.
“The competitiveness was much better on day two compared to day one,” remarked Clark after the game. “We are super happy with the outcome.”
The Battle Creek Battle Jacks are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. Having completed its’ 27th season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, over 250 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time All-Star and 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner Curtis Granderson, three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series Champion Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and World Series Champion Chris Sale (BOS). As well as 2019 Rookie of the Year and Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso (NYM) and MLB Gold Glove finalist and 2019 Second Team All-MLB shortstop Marcus Semien (TOR). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.battlejacksbaseball.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set Battle Creek as your favorite team.