Loves Park, IL – An early offensive outburst. Giving up the lead only to regain it later. A gut-wrenching finish. A heartbreaking loss. Unfortunately, this is a sequence of events that has become all too familiar for the Kalamazoo Growlers during the course of the 2016 Northwoods League season. Despite holding a 4-1 edge entering the 6th inning, and a 6-4 edge entering the 8th, the Growlers’ pitching faltered late once again en route to a crushing 7-6 walk-off defeat at the hands of the Rockford Rivets at Rivets Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Growlers (12-20, 32-36) started off the scoring with two runs in the 2nd inning off of Rivets starter Trevor Kiminski (Indian Hills CC). After Dan Robinson (Central Michigan) doubled to right, Kasey Cooper (Arkansas-Fort Smith) was then hit by a pitch to give the Growlers runners on first and second with one out. Darius Coldiron (Coker College) proceeded to single in Robinson, and then with two outs, Kevin Phelps (Indiana-South Bend) went the opposite way for a single to plate Cooper and give the Growlers a 2-0 lead.
After the Rivets (13-19, 30-38) answered with a run of their own in the bottom part of the frame off of Growlers starter Devin Pellien (Nova Southeastern), the Growlers kept their offensive momentum going into the top part of the 3rd, as Nick Hutchins (Southern Illinois) reached on an error with one out and then came around to score on a single from Robinson to make the score 3-1.
In the top of the 4th, the Growlers tacked on another run, with Evan Cheng (Youngstown State) driving in Phelps with a single.
The Growlers took their 4-1 advantage into the bottom of the 6th inning when the Rivets produced three runs off reliever Hayden Brauser (Pratt CC), getting RBI singles from Cory Wright (Parkland CC) and Jack Wassel (Minnesota) to tie the game at 4.
In the top of the 7th, the long ball was the answer for the Growlers as they got back-to-back home runs from Cooper, who blasted one off the scoreboard in left-center and from Coldiron, who followed with a line-drive over the right-field fence.
The lead did not last long for the Growlers, however, as the Rivets came back with two runs to tie the game in the bottom of the 8th off of Coldiron, who had entered the game in the 7th. Ricardo Ramirez (UIC) began the frame by doubling to left, and after Wright was hit by a pitch, Wassel legged out a ground ball to load the bases with no outs. Gavin Johnson (Rice) then delivered a sacrifice fly to left-field to score Ramirez and cut the Growlers lead in half. Kian O’Brien (Madison Tech) followed with an RBI single up the middle to plate Wright and tie the game at 6 headed to the top of the 9th.
The Growlers began the top of the 9th well, with Hutchins doubling to left-center, and Sam Griggs (Southern Indiana) legging out a bunt-single and then stealing second base but with two outs, Coldiron grounded to second to end the threat.
The bottom of the 9th began with Hunter Hargrove (Texas Tech) reaching on an error by Griggs. After Ryan Long (Texas Tech) walked, Ricardo Ramirez (UIC) delivered the game winning RBI single to right-center, scoring Hargrove and giving the Rivets a 7-6 walk-off victory in their final home game of their inaugural season.
With the win, the Rivets snapped a season long ten game home losing streak, which was the second longest in the NWL this season only to the Thunder Bay Border Cats’ 14-game home skid. This was their first home win since July 15th. The Rivets finished their inaugural season with a home record of 17-19, while the Growlers fell to 13-21 on the road and 6-13 away from Homer Stryker Field in the 2nd half of the season. The Rivets have won four of the six meetings between the two teams this season. The two will meet again for a two-game series to close out the regular season on Saturday, with first pitch expected for 5:05 PM EST from Homer Stryker Field.
The Growlers once again lost after leading after seven innings, the fifth time that has happened in the last 12 games. Coldiron took the loss to fall to 0-2 on the season. With the win, Rivets reliever Drake Robinson (Iowa) earned his eighth win of the season, which is now tied for the most in the Northwoods League.
Griggs and Robinson collected their 12th and 18th multi-hit games of the season respectively, while Phelps and Coldiron each produced their first. Pellien picked up seven more strikeouts to advance his season total to 71 and now has the second most in the NWL only to Lakeshore’s Marshall Kasowski (Houston).
With the loss, the Growlers are now half a game behind the Lakeshore Chinooks for 4th place in the NWL South overall standings. Lakeshore’s game with Battle Creek was postponed due to weather on Wednesday night.
The Growlers will have to recover quickly as they will now continue their four-game road trip in Wisconsin Rapids with a two-game series against the Rafters. It will be the final regular season meeting the teams this season. Jay Smith (Kalamazoo Valley CC) will get the start for the Growlers with first pitch slated for 7:05 PM CDT from Witter Field.
The Kalamazoo Growlers are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 23rd 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 150 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (CHC). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.growlersbaseball.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store and set the Growlers as your favorite team.