Growlers lose tight contest to Bucks
John Rubino (Eastern Michigan) opened the game with a four-pitch walk off Waterloo Bucks (6-6) pitcher Aaron Myers (Longwood), and Troy Montgomery (Ohio State) took a mighty hack on the pitch and sent a ball deep into the right-center gap, all the way to the wall. Rubino motored around to score, and Jesse Puscheck (Canisius) subsequently drove Montgomery home from third with a sacrifice fly to make the score 2-0.
But that inning proved to be an outlier. The Growlers' (5-7) bats went cold in the following frames, and the Bucks' bats inched back until they drove home the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning for the 3-2 win.
"We've just got to get better at scoring some more runs," Growlers coach Joe Carbone said. "We did some things that, you know, we gave a run away here, run away there with some baserunning, but that's kind of normal, because we're so young and sometimes we hesitate before we do what we should do."
The main baserunning mistake happened in the second inning, when Jared Kujawa tried to score from second on an infield single by Austin Cangelosi (Indiana). But Bucks first baseman David Kerian (Illinois) alertly turned and threw home just in time to nip Kujawa, who slid in at full speed.
The Growlers by no means had a mediocre night on the mound. Ryan Colegate (Ohio Dominican) got the start and threw 4 2/3 strong innings, and Devon Bronson (Eastern Michigan), Donnie Eaton (Michigan) and Chris Cervantes (Eastern Kentucky) held the Bucks to four hits over the remaining innings.
But Waterloo chipped away: an RBI infield single in the third made the margin 2-1 and another single in the eighth made it 2-2. Cangelosi made an error at shortstop to open the ninth, and that runner came around to score the decisive third run for the Bucks on an RBI double.
The Growlers appeared primed to avenge that deficit in the bottom of the ninth, as Nick Yarnall (Pittsburgh) and Jalen Phillips (Duke) led off the frame with singles.
But Cangelosi bunted a pitch in the air, and the runners were forced to stick. Rubino smashed a ball at the second baseman, but he kept the ball on the infield and made the play at first. And Montgomery struck out looking to end the game. Another rally was denied.
The Growlers will look to get back to their slugging ways on a four-game road swing that takes them to Kenosha, Wis. for two games and Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. for two more.
Carbone admitted that the team is facing higher-caliber arms in recent games than they did at the beginning of the year, but he hopes the team can rebound to match the level of competition.
"It's work in progress," he said. "Pitching goes up and down, hitting goes up and down. The big thing we try to get better at is our two-strike hitting. We're still in a process of getting better with that."
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 and free of charge via the Northwoods League YouTube channel. For more information, visit http://www.growlersbaseball.com. Follow the team on Twitter at @kzoogrowlers.