Kalamazoo, Mich. – Putting runs on the board was no problem for the Kalamazoo Growlers, until the Lakeshore Chinooks came rolling into Kalamazoo.
The Growlers (5-3) fell to the Chinooks (6-2) for the second time in as many days, by the score of 5-1, rounding out their first home stand in franchise history. After winning their first three games at home, the Growlers dropped the next two, falling to 3-2 at home so far in the 2014 season.
Offensively, the Growlers struggled for the second game in a row. The Chinooks pitching staff stifled the Growlers all day, totaling 12 strikeouts as a team and striking out the side in the both the eighth and ninth innings.
Ryan Spaulding picked up the lone RBI for the Growlers grounding into a fielder’s choice that brought home Jesse Puscheck (Canisius College) in the third inning to cut the deficit to one.
An early game time for Education Day at the ballpark had Growlers Head Coach Joe Carbone feeling as if his team was "running in quicksand."
"It’s real tough for anybody," Carbone said. "When you play a day game after a night game, it’s tough, but when you play a morning game after a night game, that’s really tough, the body just hasn’t recovered. I will say this, the other team had to do the same thing, so there’s no excuse. They were better on the field than us.”
The Chinooks bats were cooking early, as their leadoff hitter Kyle Wood (Purdue) ripped a single past Ryan Spaulding (Ball State) at second base in the top of the first inning, then Brett Siddall (Canisius College) hit a two-out RBI double to put the Chinooks up 1-0.
Nick Wernke (West Virginia) got his second start of the season for the Growlers, showing off his three-pitch repertoire. The Oswego, Ill. native’s command was erratic at times, as he walked four batters, but overall, Carbone thought Wernke is pitching well in his first summer colleigiate season.
“Most of our pitching staff are freshman, so they’re really young and immature on the mound, but he’s got a great arm, a good breaking ball, a good fastball and he’s a big kid,” Carbone said. “He’s coachable and listens to you. I’d like to see him do better, but he didn’t do that bad today.”
The freshman allowed two runs off four hits, while striking out five over 4 1/3 innings pitched.
Wernke struck out the final two batters in a row during the fourth inning, after Carbone gave him a visit at the mound. Carbone saw his freshman pitcher respond well after the visit and commended him for that after the game.
“Nick is a work in progress,” Carbone said. “We had a little talk on the mound, and I think he responded, and I was proud of him for doing that. He was out there feeling sorry for himself for a little bit and he came back. To me, that’s a positive sign in a pitcher.”
The Chinooks would score two runs on the sixth inning and one in the seventh inning to bring their total to five on the day. Kalamazoo native Ryan Krill (Michigan State) hit a solo shot over the right field fence through the teeth of 20 mile-per-hour winds at Homer Stryker Field.
On a positive note for the Growlers, shortstop John Rubino (Eastern Michigan) extended his hitting streak to seven games, after an infield single in his last at-bat of the day during the seventh inning.
“My approach has kind of been the same since game one at Clemson for my team at Eastern [Michigan],” Rubino said. “I go up there thinking I’m going to swing hard at every pitch if it’s in the zone, and I like to swing and it’s been working out for me so far. I’ve had some outs this year where I’ve lined out, like today, and then you don’t hit one as hard and it goes as a base hit. So, you just have to keep on that grind, knowing that sometimes you’re not going to get hits on balls you hit hard.”
The 5-1 loss rounded out the homestand and Carbone was appreciative of everything the gameday staff has done to prepare for the daily grind of a Northwoods League season.
“The ticketing staff and marketing staff have done a great job,” Carbone said. “I told the team that these guys have been working hard, and they’re doing a great job, and we need to do a better job on the field.”
The Growlers now head off to Green Bay to take on the Bullfrogs (4-3) for a two-game series on Wednesday and Thursday. The Growlers will return to Homer Stryker Field on Friday to take on the Waterloo Bucks for Walmart-Sam's Club FIREWORKS & Flat Screen TV Giveaway presented by Marvin Okun Agency. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.
The Kalamazoo Growlers are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 21st season of summer collegiate baseball, the Northwoods 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, more than 115 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (DET) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Allen Craig (STL) and Ben Zobrist (TB). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League YouTube channel. For more information, visit http://www.growlersbaseball.com.