By Sedric Granger
Battle Creek, MI – In front of a crowd of 1500 at MCCU Field, the Battle Creek Battle Jacks used a strong pitching performance with a dose of run support to shutout the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, 2-0.
The theme for the game was Hometown Heroes Night. This provided a chance for the Battle Jacks to don their alternate camouflage jerseys that pay homage to local heroes such as military veterans and first responders.
“It is awesome for us to take a step away from baseball and realize there is a reason why we do this every day,” said Field Manager Chris Clark with admiration. “It is easy for us to take for granted playing baseball every day. We are excited to honor them, and we are going to play hard for them tonight.”
The Dogs played with everything they had tonight, and they were led by the pitching performance from Hunter Varnadoe (Middle Georgia State). This was the last start for Varnadoe as a Battle Jack, and he excelled.
“Being my last outing, I wanted it to be special,” said Varnadoe with a big smile. “I love having this team. Dylan Howanitz has been there to close out every single win. The defense has been there all year. I could not ask for a better summer ball team!”
The Pitcher out of Middle Georgia State struck out five batters in six and one thirds scoreless innings pitched. He only gave up one hit all day to the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, who are a solid team that was previously only a half a game out of first place. Varnadoe earned his Northwoods League high fourth win of the season for the strong performance on the hill.
Alex Jarrell (Middle Georgia State) and Dylan Howanitz (West Chester) closed out the rest of the game, each yielding no hits to the visiting Rafters. Howanitz earned the save for his performance, which puts him in first place for saves in the Great Lakes. Jarrell and Varnadoe are teammates at both Middle Georgia State and as a Battle Jack, so it meant a lot for him to get to preserve the shutout. It was a grind of a week for the team, but Jarrell credits the team’s rapport and chemistry for being able to find a way to win.
“Through a long season like this, having your teammates’ backs day in and day out and trying to figure out a way to win on a consistent basis gets you through the ups and downs of the season,” said Jarrell. “Being there with the boys every day helps not only me but all of us to keep going with this season.”
In addition, Varnadoe and Howanitz have proven themselves to be quite the combination. This is the fourth game this season in which Varnadoe earned the win and Howanitz earned the save.
“The community gives us a huge boost,” said Howanitz after the game. “Makes us bring our A-game every night. We were aiming to get back into the win column and we did that tonight.”
On a night where the Battle Creek community came out to support the Battle Jacks in droves, the offense provided some early run support to get the crowd going early. Brock Daniels (Missouri) continued his streak of hitting doubles. He has hit five doubles in his last three games played at MCCU field, including one in the 2nd inning against Wisconsin Rapids. Blake McRae (Eastern Michigan) drove Daniels in on a single moments later, showcasing how Daniels’ ability to get himself into scoring position with extra base hits is an asset to the Blue and White. The Battle Jacks would add one extra run in the 3rd inning behind a Charlie Rhee (San Diego State) RBI single scoring Gavin Arseneau (Southwestern Illinois). The pair of runs was all Battle Creek needed offensively, taking down the Rafters, 2-0.
With this win, the Battle Jacks (9-17) take game one of the series and earn their first shutout win of the season.
“With the first half coming to an end, we need all the momentum we can going into that second half,” said Rhee after the game. “A win like this is huge.”
Following a tailgate at Marshall Community Credit Union (MCCU) before the game, the crowd at MCCU Field featured many people who attended a Battle Jacks game for the first time. Whether from the players, staff, or the fans, this game had the Battle Creek community buzzing. The next game for the Battle Jacks is game two of the series against Wisconsin Rapids (14-12) on Sunday.
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.