BATTLE CREEK, MI – The Battle Creek Bombers scored six runs in the bottom of the eighth to hand the Kalamazoo Growlers a brutal 14-12 loss on Friday afternoon at C.O. Brown Stadium. The win was Battle Creek’s seventh straight in this year’s I-94 Rivalry Series presented by the OnStaff Group.
With the Growlers (6-24, 14-49) up 11-8, Nick Wernke (West Virginia) came on to try for a six-out save. He lasted just one-third of an inning, as Lin Li (National Taiwan Sport University) walked, Dan Swain (Siena) singled him in, and Gary Russo (Miami, OH) doubled home a run. After a flyout, Brennon Lund (BYU) walked and Tyler Reed (Spring Arbor) singled to make it 11-11. Pinch-runner Cayce Bredlau (Austin Peay) scored on a wild pitch to give the Bombers the lead and chase Wernke. Nathan Coakley (St. Francis, IN) came on and gave up a walk before Josh Smith (Grand Valley State) doubled in an insurance run, while Christian Helsel (Penn State) make it 14-11 with a sac fly to left.
The Bombers (11-17, 24-39) turned to Mason Marshall (BYU) for the save, but Corey Dempster (USC) made it interesting with a leadoff double to left center. After back-to-back strikeouts, Taylor Hunter (KVCC) hit a groundball that ate up Helsel at third base, allowing Dempster to score. After another Helsel error, Marshall forced Angelo Armenta (USC) to pop out to end the game.
Caleb McCurry (Mars Hill, 2-1) earned the win with three innings of one-run, three hit ball. Wernke (2-4) was tagged with the loss and five of the six Battle Creek runs in the eighth. Marshall’s save was his seventh of the year.
The teams went after each other early, pounding home a combined 13 runs in the first two innings. Kalamazoo got the barrage going off starter Griffin Weir (Stanford) in the first when Justin Fletcher (Northern Illinois) singled with one out. After a hit batsman and walk, Dempster laced a double to left field to plate two. Johnny Ruiz (Miami) followed with a groundball that took a high hop into right field to score a pair more, making it 4-0 Growlers before Dylan Roberts (KVCC) even took the hill.
The home side wasted no time getting back into the swing of things. Li, Swain, and Russo led off with back-to-back-to-back singles as Russo brought home Li. Swain later scored on an error by Jordan Stading (Houston) at third base. Roberts got bailed out by a double play to end the inning with the score 4-2.
Kalamazoo got both runs back in the top of the second as Dempter sliced another double and Ruiz poked another single. The Bombers quickly erupted with a massive inning, opened up by another defensive miscue. With two on and one out, Stading misplayed a double play ball at third that brought home Smithto make it 6-3. After a walk to load the bases, Roberts struck out Russo to put two outs on the board, but Niko Pacheco (Cal State Fullerton) continued his hot series with a grand slam to dead center. Pacheco’s third home run in two days gave the Bombers a 7-6 lead.
After a pair of scoreless frames for each side, the Growlers retook control with their second four-spot of the game. Ruiz and John Soteropulos (California) reached on back-to-back one-out walks, then after Hunter blooped a single to lead the bases, Kory Brown (Bowling Green) laced a ground-rule double down the right field line to score two. Armenta followed up with a two-run single to give Kalamazoo a 10-7 lead.
Battle Creek began another rally in the bottom of the fifth as Dre Gleason (Austin Peay) singled in a run to chase Roberts. Shawn Larner (Northwood) came in to put out he fire, inducing a pair of groundouts to keep it a 10-8 Growler lead.
Armenta created a Growler run in the top of the eight by stretching a one-out single into a double. He went to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch to make it 11-8 and set up the home side’s heroics in the bottom of the eighth.
Armenta finished the day 2-for-5 with a double, two runs, two RBIs, and a stolen base, stretching his hitting streak to seven games. Armenta is 10-for-30 with six runs and four driven in during his hitting streak, which began when he ascended to the leadoff position in Wisconsin Rapids.
Dempster laced three doubles and drove in three runs, while Ruiz also picked up three RBIs. Hunter and Brown joined the party with a pair of hits as five Growlers gained at least two base-knocks.
Pacheco went 2-for-5 with the grand slam, giving him three home runs over the last two days. Every Bomber starter except Helsel got at least one base hit, and every starter but Ryan Budnick (Santa Clara) scored.
With their 49th loss, the Growlers move one defeat shy of matching the Northwoods League record for most losses in a season. The 2014 Alexandria Blue Anchors finished 22-50, while the 2010 incarnations of the Battle Creek Bombers and Wisconsin Rapids Rafters each went 20-50.
The Growlers and Bombers will complete their latest doubleheader and the I-94 Rivalry Series tonight. First pitch from C.O. Brown Stadium is set for 7:05 p.m.
The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. The 22-year old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 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, 120 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (OAK). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League YouTube channel. For more information, visit http://www.northwoodsleague.com.