BATTLE CREEK, MI — In a total team effort, the Kalamazoo Growlers were able to hold off a late surge from the Battle Creek Bombers, taking the contest 5-4 on a chilly Monday evening from C.O. Brown Stadium.
The game got off to a bit of an odd start. A large buildup of water in front of the visiting Growlers dugout delayed first pitch by 30 minutes. Then, Bombers starter Lyle Hibbits only faced a single hitter in the top of the first before being removed from the game, making this essentially a bullpen game for Battle Creek.
Issac Van Dyke was the first arm called upon by the Bombers. Van Dyke was effective early, but seems veered off course for him in the fourth inning. Van Dyke lost control of the zone early on in the frame, walking both TJ Williams and Anthony Calarco. Luke Storm then sent a dribbler down the third base line that was fired over the head of Battle Creek first baseman Stephen Krause into the vast right field foul territory at C.O. Brown Stadium. Both runners scored. Storm also came around to score, as right fielder Miguel Larreal’s throw went into a third base that was left vacated in all the chaos. This “little league home run” gave the Growlers a 3-1 lead at the time. Copper Doughman also had an RBI single in the inning, while Dom Pitelli brought a run home on a sacrifice fly.
Hayden Berg started his second game of the season for Kalamazoo – pitching extremely effectively to contact after high strikeout numbers earlier in the season. Aside from an RBI single from Jack Merrifeild in the third inning, Berg allowed no further damage, stranding the bases loaded in two consecutive innings.
In the sixth inning, however, the right hander out of Western Michigan found himself in another jam. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases again with two outs. Berg was quickly approaching the 110 pitch threshold, so manager Cody Piechocki turned to his bullpen. The final line on Berg through five and two-thirds was 9 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks and 3 strikeouts.
The Growlers bullpen has pitched well of late. That theme continued on Monday, beginning with Nolan Lepkoske striking out Larreal to end the frame. One run did come across on a wild pitch, but the Growlers maintained the lead.
After a few baserunners reached in the top of the seventh, leading to Lepkoske passing the baton to George Ferguson. The left-hander minimized the damage to a single run, much like his predecessor. Ferguson retired Battle Creek 1-2-3 in the eighth, and got two outs in the ninth, before turning the ball over to Braden Forsyth.
With two runners on in the inning, the remaining crowd at C.O. Brown Stadium was rocking in an effort to spark a rally. Despite an RBI single by Stephen Krause, cutting the lead down to one, Forsyth was able to generate a weak fly ball to right fielder Don Goodes for the final out of the ballgame, and his second save in a Growlers uniform.
Kalamazoo is now 4-1 on the season against Battle Creek, and 9-12 overall. The two teams meet at Homer Stryker Field on Tuesday before hitting the road once again for the remainder of the week. Tuesday’s first pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. ET.