ROCKFORD, ILL — The Growlers crawled out of an early five run hole, thanks to a big night offensively from two newer arrivals, and a bounce back on the bump from starter Elijah Gill. However, late inning struggles proved just to much, as Kalamazoo’s five game winning streak was snapped Wednesday night by the Rockford Rivets, 8-7.
An offensive explosion in the bottom of the first got things started for Rockford. Five runs came across in the inning on four hits. Jared Cushing and Jake Donahue both recorded 2 RBI singles, while Cam McDonald also knocked in a run for the Rivets.
Despite being knocked around early and throwing 33 pitches in the first frame, Gill bounced back. The Valdosta State southpaw only threw 17 pitches to get his next six outs. This set the Growers offense up with an opportunity to get back into the contest – one they eventually took in the top of the fourth.
Follow an Anthony Calarco walk and Luke Storm single with one out, Brooks Coetzee lazered a three-run bomb down the left field line that just stayed fair. In only his second game this season for Kalamazoo, Coetzee continued to make a fine early impact, bringing the Growlers back within striking distance at 5-3.
Blake Dunn followed suit. The Western Michigan outfielder hit a no-doubter over the high wall in left at Rivet Stadium to get Kalamazoo within one. The offense didn’t slow down, Satchell Wilson reached base via a double and Dylan Stanton singled him home with two outs to tie the game at five.
Gill seized the second life provided by the bats. As the evening went on, his stuff got better, and pitch count more efficient. Despite giving up 13 hits in the contest, he did not allow another run to cross the plate in the next 6 innings of work. After having no strikeouts heading into the seventh, Gill punched out all three batters he retired in his final frame of work.
The offense also broke through to take the lead in the sixth, when TJ Williams singled home Stanton. Kalamazoo added one more in the seventh when a squeeze play executed to perfection by Wilson scored Coetzee from third.
Unfortunately, the Growlers were unable to hang on in the late innings. Luke Pappas walked two and made an error that allowed a run to score, putting runners at third and second before Braden Forsyth entered the game. Another walk loaded the bases, before a wild pitch opened the door for another run to come home and give Rockford the lead back.
Forsyth was able to wiggle out of the jam with no further damage. Kalamazoo had a few reach base against Rivets’ closer Tucker Shalley after Calarco singled and Coetzee reached via an error on a fielder’s choice, but ultimately, Shalley was able to shut the door on any Kalamazoo rally.
The loss drops the Growlers to 10-13 on the season, tied with Rockford for fourth in the Great Lakes East division, four and a half games behind first place Traverse City.
The two teams will play a double header Thursday from Rivet Stadium, with game 1 starting at Noon ET, and game 2 getting under way at 7:00 p.m. ET.