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Published On: April 24th, 2014

For the first time since 2011, baseball was played in Kalamazoo at Homer Stryker Field, as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hosted the Central Michigan Chippewas.


In a mock-opener –where the Kalamazoo Growlers welcomed two collegiate teams– Chippewas second baseman Pat MacKenzie gave Central Michigan the lead with a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth inning as the visiting team held on late for the 4-3 victory.


Central Michigan first baseman and future Growler Cody Leichman got things going for the Chippewas early with an RBI double in the first inning for the 1-0 lead.


The Fighting Irish would eliminate the two run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the game at 3-3 after shortstop Jack Flaherty and first baseman Blaise Lezynski both drove in runs.  


Notre Dame also featured two Growlers players who started in Wednesday’s game as well in right fielder Ryan Bull and freshman catcher Ryan Lidge. 


Bull’s only plate appearance resulted in a walk in the second inning, as Robert Youngdahl pinch hit for him in the fourth inning.  


After the loss, Bull talked about the team’s struggles and how the Irish can turn it around as their season heads down the home stretch.


“It all starts with tomorrow, getting in a good day’s work,” Bull said.  “We have a big series against Northeastern this weekend to get back on track.”


In 2013, the junior right fielder played summer baseball in two different leagues, including the Northwoods League for the Madison Mallards before rounding out the season in the Coastal Plains League for Columbia Blowfish.  


After playing for two different teams last summer and enjoying the high level of baseball, Bull is ready to get his feet wet with the Growlers in their inaugural season.


“It was a great atmosphere everywhere we went, and the competition was fantastic,” Bull said.  “I’m excited to get here this summer and play baseball in front of all the great fans.”


Lidge played the entire game behind the dish for the Irish, going 0-for-1 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt.  The freshman said close games like Wednesday’s come down to execution.


“Like coach is saying, all year we just have to trust in the process,” Lidge said.  “We’re learning every single game, like this game we just have to execute the pitches and come in and really throw strikes.”  

Being a freshman, this summer will be Lidge's first season of summer collegiate baseball and couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.


“I can’t wait, this place is awesome,” Lidge said.  “I’m looking forward to it being sold out and all the fans.  I heard it’s just a great atmosphere here.”


Notre Dame pitchers Ryan Smoyer and Kyle Rubbinaccio also signed with the Growlers earlier in the year but did not pitch in Wednesday’s game against the Chippewas.


Homer Stryker Field has been vacant since 2011 when the Kalamazoo Kings of the independent Frontier League folded.  The Growlers are bringing a different brand of baseball to the city, using collegiate baseball players which is something similar to what Battle Creek endured several years ago when the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays left town.


Notre Dame (16-24, 4-17 ACC) looks to rebound against Northeastern this weekend, who they will play at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind.  Central Michigan (26-15, 12-3 MAC) has won six of its past eight games and looks to continue their hot streak this weekend, as they welcome Ball State into Mount Pleasant for a three game series. 


The Growlers official home opener is set for May 30, when they will take on the Battle Creek Bombers in what is set to be a rivalry for years to come.