Battle Creek, MI – After their ‘I-94’ rivals completed a come-from-behind victory earlier Monday afternoon at Homer Stryker Field, the Kalamazoo Growlers had their sights set on salvaging a split at a C.O. Brown Stadium a few hours later. The Growlers plan was foiled, however, thanks to a brilliant pitching performance and their bats going cold at the wrong time, as the Growlers fell 2-0 to the Battle Creek Bombers on Monday night.
The loss came on the heels of a brutal 12-10 defeat earlier Monday for the Growlers (10-14, 30-30) in a game they led 9-5 entering the 7th inning. This game would be a far different story.
After a high-octane offensive battle in the series opener, the night-cap of the day-night doubleheader turned into a pitchers duel between the Growlers starter Blaine Fisher (Pittsburg State) and the Bombers’ Chi-Ping Wu (National Taiwan).
Fisher was brilliant in his first outing as a Growler, allowing just two hits and one earned run, while striking out three and walking five over six innings.
The Bombers (13-10, 31-28) lone run off Fisher came in the bottom of the 3rd, as Daniel Jipping (Central Michigan) singled to begin the frame and eventually came around to score on a 6-4-3 double play. Fisher had to pitch out of multiple jams, stranding the bases loaded in the 6th inning while leaving five Bombers on base. Despite his brilliance, however, he would take the loss, in large part due to the Growlers inability to solve the Wu puzzle.
Wu retired ten of the first 12 Growlers batters he faced, and only faced a real threat in the 5th inning. After David Hensley (San Diego State) struck out to begin the frame, Connor Smith (Western Michigan) reached on an error. Wu then walked TJ Marik (Austin Peay) and Mitch Anderson (Kalamazoo Valley C.C.) singled to load the bases with just one out. As Wu did all night, however, he would end the threat by striking out Connor Kopach (Southern Illinois) and getting Matt Lloyd (Iowa Western) to pop out.
Jipping gave Wu and the Bombers pitching staff an insurance run in the bottom of the 7th, as he hit a towering solo home run to left-center field off of Growlers reliever Jesse Wheeler (Shorter Univ.) to give the Bombers a 2-0 cushion, which ended as the final score.
The two runs turned out to be more than enough. In earning his first win of the season, Wu threw 7 1/3 shutout innings, scattering four hits while striking out six and walking just one. He was pulled to a standing ovation in the top of the 8th inning after Lloyd singled with one out, and reliever Colton Bradley (Central Michigan) would come on and produce a five out save, as he struck out four Growlers while not allowing a base runner.
With the loss, the Growlers finish the season with a 2-6 mark against the Bombers. The sweep marked the sixth time the Growlers have been swept this season, with four of the sweeps coming in the second half. The Bombers won three of the games when trailing after six innings of later, with two coming in the 9th inning or extras. The 2-0 result marked the third time this season the Growlers have been shutout, with the previous two coming at the hands of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters on June 16th and the Madison Mallards on July 10th.
The Growlers have now lost four straight games for the second time this season. The other came from June 15th to June 18th, when they fell to the Wisconsin Woodchucks at Athletic Park, and proceeded to be swept by the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters at Witter Field, before also falling to the Rafters at home in the series opener on June 18th. With the loss at C.O. Brown Stadium, the Growlers have lost four straight road games, dating back to their loss at Kapco Park against the Lakeshore Chinooks on July 24th. The Growlers were then swept by the Chinooks at Kapco Park on July 30th and 31st.
The Growlers are now 11-17 on the road and 4-9 in road games in the 2nd half of the NWL season. At 10-14 in the NWL South 2nd half standings they sit 5.5 back of the leading Wisconsin Rapids Rafters and have been leapfrogged by the Bombers for having the third best overall record in the NWL South. They now trail the Bombers by 1.5 games for third in the division, and lead the Rockford Rivets by just one game for fourth place. At 30-30 record overall, this marks the first time the Growlers have been at or under .500 since June 7.
A quick turnaround is in store for the Growlers, as they begin another four game Wisconsin road trip in Wausau with the Wisconsin Woodchucks. First pitch is set for 6:35 PM CDT from Athletic Park with Jay Smith (Kalamazoo Valley C.C.) getting the start for the Growlers as they try to stop their four-game slide.
The Kalamazoo Growlers are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 23rd 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 150 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 (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (CHC). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit northwoodsleague.com/kalamazoo-growlers/ or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store and set the Growlers as your favorite team