Kalamazoo, Mich. — The Kalamazoo Growlers did precisely what they needed through the first eight innings of their game Tuesday against the Wisconsin Woodchucks at Homer Stryker Field. They hit well and pitched well, in amounts conducive to a win. They did it quickly, too, entering the ninth inning barely two hours after the start.
But the persistent issues with the bullpen would pop up again, and the Growlers coughed up the lead in the top of the ninth and lost, 7-5, in 11 innings.
Shane Bryant (Purdue) got the start for the Growlers. Though he allowed a solo home run to the second batter he faced, Bryant had an effective, efficient outing and allowed three runs and ten hits in 7 2/3 innings pitched. Bryant only struck out one Woodchucks batter, but he mixed his fastball and offspeed pitches well and threw plenty of strikes, and Wisconsin's hitters were happy to swing early in the count.
"That's pretty much the dream of every starter: To get out in about one or two pitches," Bryant said. "For me to do that through seven innings, that was kind of a blessing there. Limiting walks really helps out with pitch count, and that's what kind of worked out today.
The Growlers took the lead in the second inning when Jesse Puscheck (Canisius) hit a long three-run home run to right field, and they got their fourth run form a solo shot from Brett Sunde (Western Michigan) in the fourth frame.
Kalamazoo began the top of the ninth with a 4-3 lead, but Josh Buchalski (Michigan State) allowed a leadoff double, and while John Schreiber (Northwestern Ohio) struck out the next batter, he allowed a double that tied the game at 4-4. The Woodchucks scored another run that inning to take a 5-4 lead.
The Growlers tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a sacrifice fly from Justin Fletcher (Northern Illinois), but the Woodchucks scored two in the top of the eleventh with a bases-loaded walk and sacrifice fly. Kalamazoo was unable to respond in the bottom of the frame.
The two teams face off again on Wednesday at 7:05 on Salute to Seniors Night. All fans 55 and over get buy-one-get-one free tickets.
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.