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Growlers Drop Series Opener to Jackrabbits Despite Furious Comeback

KOKOMO, IN — Nine innings was not enough for the second straight night for both the Kalamazoo Growlers and Kokomo Jackrabbits. Kalamazoo showed tremendous fight, battling back from 5-1 down, but ultimately fell 7-6 in 10 innings on Saturday night.

It was a pitchers’ duel through the first four innings. Neither starter blinked, as Braden Forsyth was twirling a gem for the Growlers, yielding just one hit and striking out three.

The only offense came off the bat of Kalamazoo’s home run leader, Damon Lux. The Indiana native returned to his home state by launching a line drive solo home run to left center field for Kalamazoo’s first hit of the ball game. Lux’s fifth long ball of the summer put KZoo up 1-0 in the top of the fifth.

In the sixth, Forsyth showed his first signs of struggle. After allowing two singles, with a ground ball out in between, runners were at the corners with one away. The Ole Miss right hander generated another ground ball out, thanks to a diving stop down the first base line from Luke Storm, but the tying run did come home from third to score. That would end Forsyth’s evening after five and two thirds.

Things then got away from Kalamazoo after entering the bullpen. A throwing error put Kokomo ahead 2-1. Then, a hit by pitch and three run home run from Chris Santiago on the next two pitches totally changed momentum and gave the Jackrabbits a 5-1 lead.

From there, the Growlers had to play catch up. They were able to do just that against a Kokomo bullpen that had posed problems for them all season long. Two runs scored in the seventh via a Dom Pitelli RBI groundout and Nolan McCarthy RBI single, cutting the deficit to 5-3.

A Luke Leto single scored Lux in the following frame, after the Duke outfielder reached on a fielder’s choice.

In the ninth, Kalamazoo completed the comeback against Kokomo closer Peltier. McCarthy walked to start off the inning, and advanced into scoring position thanks to a sacrifice bunt from David Coppedge. Jake Gelof followed up with a single advancing McCarthy to third and setting the table for a Storm infield hit to shortstop that brought McCarthy home to tie the game at five.

The Growlers bullpen also buckled down after early game struggles, with a combination of three relievers blanking the Jackrabbits through the last three innings, forcing free baseball.

After an 11 inning victory on Friday against Traverse City, the Jackrabbits looked for an extra inning of work from Peltier. The Growlers were, however, able to scratch and claw another run across.

TJ Williams, who started the inning as the designated runner on second base, reached third on a Tate Ballestero single, and then dashed home on a Pitelli squeeze play, dodging an attempted tag from Peltier up the third base line. This gave the Growlers the lead, coming all the way back from 5-1 down to take a 6-5 advantage.

Unfortunately, Kalamazoo could not hold on. Two runs in the bottom of the 10th, including a walk off RBI walk to Northwoods League All-Star Chase Meidroth, clinched the Jackrabbits a 7-6 victory.

The Growlers record falls to 21-32 on the season. Kalamazoo looks to split the weekend set on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 ET.