Kalamazoo, Mich – For the first time since the first five-game homestand that ended on June 3, the Kalamazoo Growlers have been victorious in back-to-back games, this time behind timely hitting and shut down pitching.
On Friday against the Rochester Honkers, the Growlers (8-11) used fifteen hits and nine runs to claim the win. In tonight's game, the pitching dominated throughout for the home team. Kalamazoo used four different pitchers to hold the Green Bay Bullfrogs to just five hits, giving them the 6-3 win in front of 3,461 fans at Homer Stryler Field.
Jared Kujawa (Western Michigan) paced the offense for Kalamazoo, going 3-for-4 and knocking in the second run of the game for the Growlers. Ryan Spaulding (Ball State) and John Rubino (Eastern Michigan) were the other Growlers to pick up multiple hits, as Spaulding went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored, and Rubino going 2-for-5 including a triple and an RBI single.
Kujawa prides himself on being able to get the ball into the gaps and use his speed to advance on the base paths, but also how he has some pop in his bat, and that is something he and Growlers play-by-play Mike Coleman discussed after the game.
"I'm more of a gap hitter," said Kujawa. "I do have some power if I get into it, but I try to stay more gap-to-gap, and I can run a little bit, so if I hit the gaps I have a chance to get free."
After a three-hit game in last night's contest, Troy Montgomery (Ohio State) was bumped up to the two-hole from the nine spot in the Growlers lineup. Rubino led off the game with a triple to deep right center field, followed by Montgomery's sacrfice fly to foul territory in left field, giving Kalamazoo the early 1-0 in the first inning, and Montgomery his fourth RBI in the past two games since returning from a jammed thumb that kept the speedy center fielder out three games.
Kalamazoo got to the Bullfrogs (9-10) starter Mike Ellenbest the third time through the order, as he balked two runners into scoring position with no outs in the sixth inning to ignite a Growlers rally. Kujawa and Spaulding followed with back-to-back RBI singles to tie the game at 3-3.
Ryan Bull (Notre Dame) then knocked one back to the Ellenbest, who then airmailed the throw to first base. Kujawa would score on the error with Spauling advancing to third base, giving the Growlers the 4-3 lead as well as ending Ellenbest's night on the mound. Austin Cangelosi (Indiana) knocked in his fifth run in as many games with an RBI groundout to the second baseman, bringing home Spaulding for the 5-3 lead heading into the seventh inning.
Green Bay managed to bring the winning run to the plate in the top of the ninth inning, but the old fashioned 6-4-3 double play ends the Bullfrogs threat.
Growlers head coach Joe Carbone said after the game that the win felt great, but the team still has things to work on, despite turning things around and winning three of the past five games.
"We got some timely base hits, a good bunt down and they didn't make a good throw, so that broke us open a little bit," said Carbone. "Austin Cangelosi had good two-out hitting that brought in the winning run, and Jared Kujawa got three base-hits up the middle…all in all, we didn't do things great, but good enough to win."
Carbone is the kind of coach who stresses the little things in baseball, and that is something he is trying to teach the young college players.
"I try to emphasize that yeah, you're here to play for yourself, but you're also here to play for the team. and we're playing to win," said Carbone.
Caleb Baragar (Jackson CC) made his fourth start of the season for the Growlers on Saturday night, lasting only three innings for the home team. The Jenison native continued to struggle with his command, posting three walks. The Indiana commit let two pitches get away from him and to the backstop in the third inning to bring home two Bullfrogs. Baragar (0-2) did not give up a hit in his three innings pitched, while striking out one batter as well.
Chris Cervantes (Eastern Kentucky) would relieve Baragar and after pitching his way out of a jam in the fourth, the six-foot-one right-hander settled in nicely, allowing just one hit and walking one batter over his final 2 2/3 innings pitched, picking up the win for the home team. Cervantes (1-0) came into Saturday's game with a 2.45 ERA out of the bullpen for the Growlers.
The Growlers look to make it three straight on Sunday against the Bullfrogs. It's Eaton Family Funday Sunday at Homer Stryker Field, and Nick Wernke is the probable starter for the Growlers. First pitch is set for 5:05 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.