KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The beginning of the Northwoods League season is a time where rosters fluctuate from day to day while full time players make their way to their teams from across the country. One of the benefits of this for Growler fans is they will get to see a couple local pitchers open the season this week against the Lakeshore Chinooks.
Jeff Burch, who plays at Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC), looks to be the opening day starter. This was an easy decision for Growlers Field Manger Cody Piechocki who saw Burch pitch all season as Piechocki is the Head Coach at KVCC.
Burch was the ace for Piechocki this season, throwing 10 games and finishing with a 2.81 ERA. Piechocki expect Burch to eat up lots of innings in the time he is with the Growlers and be an ace early in the season.
Fans may also remember Burch from Paw Paw high school just 25 minutes down the road from Homer Stryker field. He finished as first team all-conference as a sophomore and a junior and recorded a 2.10 ERA.
The other local starter for the Growlers will be Adam Wheaton who plays his collegiate baseball at Trine University, but played high school at Hackett Catholic Prep.
While at Hackett Catholic he led the team to their first district title since 1988 with Wheaton playing both pitcher and right-field. Wheaton finished with a 21-1 record during his junior and senior season.
The University of Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Grand Valley State all reached out about having Wheaton join their programs after high school, but Wheaton was drawn to Trine because he’d have a chance to play with his older brother, Ben, who is the Thunder’s No. 1 pitcher heading into his senior year
In his freshman season at Trine, Wheaton started eight games with 11 appearances. In 57 innings pitched he struck out 65 batters and just 16 walks. He did throw two complete games for Trine with a 4.89 ERA. Wheaton is expected to start on Wednesday in the second game of the series against the Chinooks. Wheaton’s versatility will be vital early in the season with his ability to play right-field. With the team potentially short on numbers Wheaton may see time in Right-Field as well as on the mound.
Fans can come out and see both the local pitchers at Homer Stryker field this week as they take on the Chinooks and begin their 2018 campaign.