Growlers thump rival Bombers in high-energy home opener
Kalamazoo, Mich. — From the second the ceremonial ribbon was cut and fans started streaming through the gates, Homer Stryker Field crackled with the energy and excitement.
"I never knew Kalamazoo had so many baseball fans," Growlers catcher and Michigan native Brett Sunde (Western Michigan) said.
That energy must have somehow been transferred to the Kalamazoo Growlers' bats, as they hammered twenty hits off the rival Battle Creek Bombers' pitchers and cruised to a 13-3 win in their first-ever home game as a member of the Northwoods League.
The Growlers (3-1) have made a habit of scoring runs in bunches this season, and they continued that habit in the first inning. Troy Montgomery (Ohio State) laid a beautiful bunt down the third base line that stuck in the dirt and let the speedy Montgomery reach for the team's first hit of the game. After Ryan Spaulding (Ball State) doubled to put runners on second and third, a wild pitch allowed Montgomery to scoot home, and Sunde singled to drive Spaulding in. An error by the Battle Creek (1-3) left fielder on a Jared Kujawa (Western Michigan) fly ball allowed Sunde to come home to make the score 3-0.
Kalamazoo broke out a two-out rally for three more runs in the second inning. John Rubino (Eastern Michigan) walked, Montgomery tripled to drive him home, and after Spaulding walked, singles by Cody Leichman (Central Michigan) and Sunde drove two runs home to make the lead 6-2.
The Growlers added a run in the third inning, on a long home run by Ryan Bull (Notre Dame) to right-center, and another in the fifth on an RBI groundout from Montgomery.
If those innings suggested that the Growlers' bats were easing up, the sixth inning immediately extinguished that notion. Sunde and Kujawa singled to lead off the inning, then Bull singled to drive Sunde home. After Kujawa scored on a sacrifice fly, John Rubino doubled to drive Bull home. Montgomery drove two more runs home with a single of his own to put the score at 13-3.
The Growlers' defensive struggles continued on Friday, as they made four errors, but pitchers Jacob Post (Ohio State), Chris Cervantes (Eastern Kentucky) and Devon Bronson (Eastern Michigan) filled up the strike zone and minimized solid contact by the Bombers' bats. The Growlers' fielders teamed up in the top of the third to make one of the best plays of this young season, as Battle Creek first baseman Matt Dacey (Richmond) bombed a double to deep center, but a strong throw from Montgomery in to Rubino and a great throw from Rubino to Sunde nailed Sam Koenig (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) at the plate.
Kalamazoo is back in action Saturday at 7:05 p.m. when the team meets the visiting Wisconsin Rapids Rafters at Homer Stryker Field. Luke Bolka (East Carolina) will get the start for the Growlers. Follow along with the action by liking Kalamazoo Growlers on Facebook, following @kzoogrowlers on Twitter and watching at youtube.com/NorthwoodsLeague
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 via the Northwoods League YouTube channel. For more information, visit http://www.growlersbaseball.com. – See more at: http://northwoodsleague.com/kalamazoo-growlers/2014/05/30/growlers-topple-bombers-with-help-of-four-run-fourth/#sthash.8VSfEBvP.dpuf