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Published On: June 26th, 2014


Kalamazoo, Mich. — The third inning of the Kalamazoo Growlers' game against the Kenosha Kingfish on Wednesday night at Homer Stryker Field saw all Ryan Smoyer's allotted bad luck come down at once. 

It started with a double down the left field line that wasn't hit terribly hard but flew just out of the reach of Nick Yarnall (Pittsburgh). Zach Kolakowski (Illinois) hit a bouncer to second base, but Jared Kujawa (Western Michigan), an outfielder playing second base so Growlers manager Joe Carbone could get as many lefty bats in the lineup as possible, fielded awkwardly and botched the throw.

After a bunt, two softly hit singles, a double and an RBI groundout, the 4-0 lead the Growlers had grabbed in the first inning by barraging Kingfish starter Rico Garcia (Hawai'i Pacific) with five singles had become a 4-4 tie. 

But while Smoyer (Notre Dame) wasn't able to minimize the bad luck in that inning, he certainly put it behind him in the subsequent frames. The righty threw 7 1/3 innings and allowed just one earned run to secure his second straight win, and the Kalamazoo bats banged out 15 hits to secure a 9-4 victory.

"I felt good during the inning, so I could tell it wasn't my stuff, it was just some unfortunate stuff happening," Smoyer said. "They score runs, and that happens during the course of the game, so your mindset going back out there is 'That's it.'"

Smoyer's performance backed up that mindset. He worked quickly, consistently threw strikes and occasionally broke out his downer curveball to baffle hitters. He continued doing so until the eighth inning, when he exited after allowing a walk and a single. 

By then, the Growlers had expanded the lead to 7-4 with three runs in the fifth. After Jalen Phillips (Duke) hit a booming triple into the right-center field gap to lead off the frame, Troy Montgomery (Ohio State) flaired a ball into left field to drive Phillips home. Ryan Spaulding (Ball State) singled to advance Montgomery to third, and he scored when Yarnall grounded into a double play. Jared Kujawa (Western Michigan) drove Kalamazoo newcomer Bryce Harman (East Carolina) in after he hit a two-out triple. 

Garcia had a 0.54 ERA in five starts coming into Wednesday and occasionally flashed dominance with a well-located fastball and deep, accurate curveball, but the Growlers pounded him for nine hits and seven runs in 4 2/3 innings. 

"When he did miss over the plate, we just put really good swings on it tonight, which is good," Kujawa said. "Obviously, he's been doing very well this summer, so he hasn't been missing much, but I think he missed some pitches a little more than usual today and we luckily put some good swings on them."

The Growlers added two more runs in the ninth to pad the lead for Devon Bronson (Eastern Michigan), who relieved Smoyer, but it would prove unneccesary, as Bronson retired every batter he faced.

Kalamazoo departs on Thursday for a four-game road swing, with two to be played in Wausau, Wis. against the Wisconsin Woodchucks and two more in Kenosha against the Kingfish. The Growlers return to Kalamazoo on Monday for a day/night, home/away doubleheader against the Battle Creek Bombers, with the home game scheduled for noon. Fans can get 25 cent slices of Little Caesars pizza. 

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