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Early Start Not Enough to Power Growlers Past Rafters

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, WI — The Kalamazoo Growlers continued their six game road trip with a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters on Monday evening.

The Growlers had been swinging hot bats entering the series, scoring 14 runs combined in the two previous games against the Kenosha Kingfish. Unfortunately, that offense did not exactly translate into the opener of this two-game early week set.

However, early indicators were that the offense would be just fine. Following a lead off single by Duke outfielder Damon Lux in the top of the first, Virginia infielder Jake Gelof clobbered a two-run home run over the 366 ft. mark on the center field wall at Witter Park. Gelof’s fourth long ball of the season gave Kalamazoo the early 2-0 advantage.

The Rafters responded by equalizing in the bottom half of the frame. Growlers starter Luke Krkovski pitched to weak contact for the first three hitters, but an error allowed Wisconsin Rapids lead off man Couper Cornblum to reach second base, with two straight groundouts sending him home. Marco Castillo also scored in the inning on a single by Benjamin Swords after doubling off the top of the center field wall.

With the score tied at 2 through an inning, it looked like we were headed towards a shootout. With that said, the game quickly changed gears the rest of the way. Kalamazoo mustered just four hits the rest of the way. The Rafters especially had success via the bullpen. Seton Hall right hander Hunter Waldis went the final four innings for Wisconsin Rapids, tossing 69 pitches, but striking out seven and allowing no runs.

On the Growlers’ side of things, the strategy for Krkovski became bend, but don’t break. Despite allowing 11 hits on the evening, the Australian out of Howard College constantly wiggled out of jams, allowing only the two runs in the first before five straight shutout frames.

This held the 2-2 score line until the bottom of the seventh. Despite the best efforts from the Growlers bullpen, two runs came across, with one scoring on an EJ Exposito RBI single, and the other scoring on an error in the eighth. Wisconsin Rapids hung on to take the series opener, 4-2.

The loss drops Kalamazoo’s overall record to 23-38 on the season. With tomorrow’s Major League Dream Showcase, the Growlers will have an off day. The series finale between the two sides will be played on Wednesday night at Witter Park, with first pitch scheduled for 7:35 p.m. ET.