KALAMAZOO, MI — Despite Two Run Home Runs from Brett Barrera and Devin Burkes on Thursday night, and plenty of pop from Luke Leto, the Growlers dropped their series opener to the Madison Mallards, 7-6 at Homer Stryker Field.
The evening started very well for Kalamazoo, with starter Tanner Knapp on the bump. The right hander, who recently committed to Ball State, was electric early on. Knapp retired the first six hitters he faced, but then faced a bit of a rough patch against the bottom third of the order. Three straight singles, two of which took tough hops deep on the infield dirt, gave the Mallards a 2-0 lead in the third.
However, the Growlers answered right back. Brett Barrera has continued to heat up since arriving from Stanford. After a line drive single in the first inning, Barrera lined his 2-run bomb deep to left field in the third, tying the game.
Kalamazoo then took charge in the sixth. After Madison starter Ryan Lauk was chased from the ballgame, the Growlers greeted the Mallards bullpen with four consecutive hits in the sixth, including the Burkes long ball that gave Kalamazoo its first lead of the night at 4-2.
Looking for insurance, the Growlers got just that. A Dominic Pitelli single was followed up by Leto’s second of two doubles to right field on the night. This two bagger scored Pitelli, then triggered a wild throw to third with Leto aggressively advancing on the bases. The throw ended up in left field, and Leto came home to make it 6-2 Growlers.
Unfortunately, as the top of the seventh loomed, that’s when the Kalamazoo struggles began. A solo home run by Matt Scannell got the Mallards within three. A walk and single quickly followed, ending the evening for Knapp. Southpaw Nicolas Lopez entered in relief, allowing two hits and both inherited runners coming home to score. Just like that, it was a one run ballgame at 6-5. Once the Mallards loaded the bases again, the ball was passed on to Trey Nordmann. The Lipscomb commit got the Growlers out of trouble via a strikeout and ground out, stranding the bases loaded.
However, this only delayed Madison’s resurgence. Two walks to lead off the eighth set the stage for Alex Iadisernia, one of the best power bats in the Northwoods League. Sure enough, the outfielder tripled home the two runners and gave Madison a 7-6 lead.
Kalamazoo showed life on offense in the bottom half of the eighth. Burkes reached on an error, but was eventually thrown out at home by Scannell in left to end the frame. Despite closer Braden Forsyth limiting any further damage, the Growlers went down quietly in the ninth.
Kalamazoo drops to 15-24 on the season, and 0-3 in the second half. The Growlers look to get back on track and salvage a split with the Mallards tomorrow night at 6:35 p.m. ET.