KALAMAZOO, MI – The Kalamazoo Growlers were able to cruise to an opening day 5-1 victory over the Rockford Rivets thanks to timely hitting. The Growler’s only accumulated 5 hits in the games and 4 of those hits came in the 3rd inning. The 3rd inning was the only inning the Growlers scored and it was started Kyle Ziegler reaching on an error, then Zach Vitkuske was walked, and this was followed by a Drew Huff infield single. With the bases loaded Nick Hutchins hit a double which drove in 2 runs. A batter later Calvin Boerst hit another double driving in another two runs. The Growler’s were able to tack on one run later in the inning as well.
The Growlers were also bolstered by a great starting pitching performance from Sam Traver. Sam only gave up one earned run in 5 innings of work. Traver works extrememly fast and he was able to keep the Rivet’s batters uncomfortable with great off-speed pitches. Traver was continually dealing with traffic on the bases, however, even when runners were in scoring position Traver did not wilt under the pressure. The only mark against Sam came in the 5th inning where he gave up 4 hits, but an assist from the left fielder Calvin Boerst prevented the Rivets from scoring more than 1 run.
The Growlers’ bullpen helped protect the lead after Traver left the game. Chet Joslin, Hayden Brauser, and Bryce Welbourne all came in and shut the door giving the Rivets absolutely no chance of coming back. Joslin pitched 2 innings of scoreless relief with 2 strikeouts. Brauser arrived in the 8th and dominated the opposition, and even though Welbourne let the first two batter on he closed the door on the Rivets for good ending the game with a strikeout.
The Rivets’ starting pitcher Jack Granath struggled in the 3 innings he pitched giving up 5 runs and he was handed the loss by the Growlers. On the bright side the Rivets’ bullpen was excellent today. As a team, they didn’t give up a run in the 5 innings they pitched. The highlight of the Rivets’ night was reliever John Laird who pitched 3 scoreless innings with 2 strikeouts for the Rivets, and the Growlers’ hitters could not find an answer against him. Nick Drahozal also did not give up a run when he pitched in the bottom of the 8th.
Top performers for the Rivets tonight were Cal Aldridge who went 3 for 3 with a walk, and Bren Spillane who went 2 for 4 with a stolen base and he drove in the only run of the ballgame for the Rivets. The Rivets’ had 9 hits compared to the Growlers’ 5 hits, however the Rivets could not seem to finish their rallies with runs leaving a number of guys in scoring position tonight. Defense also did not help the Rivets as an error costed them an unearned run. The Growlers’ defense, on the other hand, assisted in their victory. An outfielder assist to stop a run from scoring by Boerst, and diving plays by both Javier Martinez and Drew Huff helped ensure a Growlers’ Opening Day victory.
The Kalamazoo Growlers are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 23-year-old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 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, more than 170 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.growlersbaseball.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Growlers as your favorite team.