ROCKFORD, IL — Kalamazoo has struggled to win on the road all year, especially at Rivets Stadium. The Growlers were 0-5 at Lonnie’s Field coming into Friday night matchups; big innings, errors, pitching mishaps, cold bats… you name it, it happened. That is, until Friday.
The Growlers were set up well, with Hayden Berg on the bump. It was a cloudy night with a bit of drizzle blowing through – not exactly prime pitching conditions. The righty from Western Michigan had excelled against the Rivets this season, throwing a combined 13 scoreless innings in two previous starts. Berg didn’t have his best stuff the third time around, but it got the job done. He gave up eight hits and three runs (two earned) through six frames, but struck out seven Rivets, including two in his final inning to strand runners on second and third.
Berg also had plenty of support from Kalamazoo’s bats. After Rockford got on the board in the bottom of the second, Kalamazoo tied the game at one in the next half-inning thanks to an RBI double from Damon Lux which scored Brooks Coetzee. The game seesawed back and forth: Rockford scored in the bottom of the third, Devin Burkes tied it up in the top of the fourth with an RBI knock that brought around Jake Gelof. The Rivets scored their last run in the fifth on a solo home run, and Kalamazoo responded with two in the sixth. Henry Gargus and Burkes were on base with one out, and Brett Barrera golfed a curveball to the left-center field wall to score both runners.
It was 4-3 when Berg left the ballgame, and surely bad memories of a bullpen collapse swirled in the heads of the Growlers. But the Electric Factory held strong. Nicolas Lopez went two scoreless with two strikeouts; Kalamazoo also tacked on an insurance run in the seventh thanks to a Nolan McCarthy chopper that scored Coetzee. Nolan Lepkoske shut the door, sitting down two of the three Rivets he faced.
Kalamazoo heads to Kenosha for a two game set with the third-place Kingfish. First pitch from Simmons Field on Saturday at 7:05.