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Growlers endure rain again, split series with Chinooks

 

Mequon, WIS – The plan was for the Kalamazoo Growlers to head to Warner Park and play against the Madison Mallards on Thursday and Friday night respectively to begin their four-game road trip. The team would then head to Kapco Park and do battle with the Chinooks on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Of course, baseball never goes as planned and the weather can be even more unpredictable then baseball. After rain postponed what was supposed to be the series opener between the Kalamazoo Growlers and the Lakeshore Chinooks on Saturday night, the two teams played 14 innings on Sunday afternoon and evening to complete the series, with the Growlers winning the first game 3-2 and the Chinooks taking the latter 9-2.

The rain-affected series with the Chinooks came on the heels of the Growlers enduring their first rainout of the season on Thursday night against the Madison Mallards, which forced them to play a double-header on Friday night, with the Growlers winning the latter contest for the split

Game 1

Things got off to a bumpy start for the Growlers (7-9, 27-25) and the Chinooks (7-9, 22-30) as the game Saturday, initially slated to begin 6:35 PM CDT got pushed back about half an hour due to fog blocking the sightlines on the field.

Play eventually got underway with light rain coming down, and it was the Growlers striking first in the top part of the 2nd inning against Chinooks starter Nolan Bond (Houston) with Tre Gannt (Ohio State) singling in Dan Robinson (Central Michigan) for the game’s first run. Connor Kopach (Southern Illinois) followed with an RBI single of his own which scored Michael Crowley (Huntington).

Trey Ganns (Northern Kentucky) threw two shutout innings on Saturday night, allowing just two hits while striking out three and throwing just 30 pitches, but due to heavy rain, his outing was cut short and he did not pitch when the game was restarted on Sunday. Bond also did not return to the mound for the conclusion to the game on Sunday for the same reason. Play was officially called to be suspended at 7:43 PM on Saturday night and after waiting for another few hours, the game was postponed to a 3:00 PM start for Sunday. As a result, the second game of the series, initially slated to begin at 3:05 PM CDT, was made into a seven inning contest as Northwoods League rainout rules dictate, and would start after the conclusion of the first game.

Play continued from the first game of the series on Sunday afternoon, with the Growlers leading 2-0 in the top part of the 3rd inning, with Zach Vitkuske (Muskegon C.C.) replacing Ganns for the Growlers. Vitkuske was spectacular in his first outing as a Growler, tossing six innings while allowing just a single unearned run, while scattering three hits and a walk, and striking out five in what would become his first win as a Growler.

The Growlers added what turned out to be an important insurance run in the top of the 6th, with Kasey Cooper (Arkansas-Fort Smith) driving in Robinson with an RBI single to give the Growlers a 3-0 lead. The Chinooks got their first run of the ballgame in the bottom of the 8th, as Darius Sewell (Georgia State) reached base after an error from Connor Smith (Western Michigan), which scored Joe Duncan (Eastern Illinois).

With the Growlers leading 3-1 entering the bottom of the 9th inning, Garvin Alston (Arizona State) got the first out of the frame, and then Hayden Brauser (Pratt C.C.) came on to get the save, which he did, but not before some late drama. Singles from Matt Reardon (Florida Gulf Coast) and Hayden Senger (Miami-Ohio) were followed by a sacrifice fly from James Bleming (Lehigh) to make the score 3-2 and give the Chinooks new life. Joe Duncan (Eastern Illinois) would then single to keep the inning going for the but Brauser would finally get Owen Miller (Illinois State) to ground out to end the game and give the Growlers a 3-2 victory.

Game 2

The second game of the series began at 5:32 PM CDT and the Growlers would once again strike first. Facing hard-throwing right-hander Keenan Bartlett (Richmond), the Growlers manufactured a 1st inning run, with Smith singling to begin the game. After Smith was sacrificed to second base by Camden Duzenack (Dallas Baptist), he would be driven in by a Brandon Gomez (Nova Southeastern) RBI single for the game’s first run.

Facing Growlers 6-foot-7 left-handed starter Kevin Marnon (Ball State), the Chinooks would answer in the bottom half of the frame, with Miller driving in Duncan who began the frame with a triple. The Chinooks offense showed no signs of slowing down, as they plated another run in the bottom half of the 2nd inning, and then two more runs a piece in the 3rd and 4th innings to take a commanding 6-1 lead into the 5th and chase Marnon out of the game early.

Cooper would help the Growlers stop the bleeding momentarily, lacing a solo home run to left-center field to cut the deficit to 6-2, but the Growlers would strand a few runners in the frame, with Duzenack grounding into an inning ending double play.

The 6th inning would prove to be the Growlers undoing, as after the Growlers loaded up the bases with two outs and chased Bartlett out of the game, Nick Hutchins (Southern Illinois) would pinch hit for Ganns and strike out against Chinooks reliever Nick Horvath (Florida) to end the threat. The Chinooks would break the game open in the bottom half, with Tim Dalporto (Kent State) singling in Reardon and Sewell following with a two-run home run to right field off Growlers reliever Drake Hermann (Pittsburg State) which would prove to be the final runs for either team.

Horvath allowed a single to T.J. Marik (Austin Peay) to begin the 7th, but would settle down and strike out Smith before getting Duzenack to bounce into a game ending 5-4-3 double play to give the Chinooks a 9-2 win and a series split.

Series Notes

The Growlers and Chinooks have now split their first three series this season, with the previous two series having been played on May 31 and June 1, and the second coming on July 4 and July 5, with all games having been played at Homer Stryker Field. The Growlers are now 8-14 all time against the Chinooks. The two teams will meet for a final series this season at Kapco Park on July 30 and July 31.

Robinson now has 14 multi-hit games on the season after his two-hit outing in the first game of the series. With the 3-2 win in the first game, the Growlers improved to 6-5 in one-run games and Brauser earned his third save of the season. In the second game of the series, Smith, Gomez and Cooper each had two-hit games for their fourth, eight, and third multi-hit games of the season respectively. Cooper’s home run in the 5th inning was his third of the season and his first since hitting a grand slam against the Wisconsin Woodchucks on June 15.

Sewell’s 8th inning home run was his second this season against the Growlers after he had hit a go-ahead three-run home run against Kalamazoo in the Chinooks’ 5-2 win at Homer Stryker Field on July 4. It was Sewell’s sixth home run of the season and the 40th allowed by Growlers pitching.

The Growlers are now 20-10 when scoring first and 11-14 overall on the road this season. With the split the Growlers are now three games back of the Rockford Rivets in the Northwoods League South second half standings and seven games back of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters in the overall NWL south standings.

After a rare off day on Monday, the Growlers will return to home to take on the Kenosha Kingfish. 1st pitch is set for 7:05 PM EST from Homer Stryker Field. The Chinooks will also take advantage of an off day on Monday before heading to Madison to take on the Mallards at Warner Park.

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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.