Kalamazoo, Mich. — The Kalamazoo Growlers (5-6) were tantalizingly close to snapping out of their offensive slump and showing a bit of firepower against the visiting Waterloo Bucks.
Designated hitter Jalen Phillips (Duke) hit a high, soaring drive to the right-field warning track in the eighth inning. Bucks right fielder Steven Goldstein (Kansas) backed up to the wall, reached up and appeared to make the catch.
But confusion reigned after the field umpire failed to make a conclusive signal on the play. Phillips initially thought he was out, then started trotting home after the home plate umpire signalled a home run, then stopped in limbo just past third base when the men in blue got together to consult.
Phillips was out, they umpires eventually decided. And the Growlers were stymied on offense once more in a 2-0 loss on Friday night at Homer Stryker Field where they simply couldn't start a rally, despite excellent efforts from their pitching staff.
Luke Bolka (East Carolina) got the start for the Growlers and threw three innings, allowing a run in the second frame but only allowing one hit. He gave way to Ryan Smoyer (Notre Dame) in the fourth inning, and Smoyer had a stellar 4 2/3 inning performance where he held the Bucks (5-6) to just two hits.
"In a situation like that, when you're down coming in and you know you're going to be in there for a while, you're just pitching to contact," Smoyer said. "I thought our defense played really great down the stretch."
Smoyer was tagged with a run in the ninth inning when he allowed a leadoff single and the baserunner came around when Dillon Haviland (Duke) entered and allowed an RBI single.
The run Bolka allowed was already enough to spell defeat for the Growlers, though. Adam Bray (South Dakota State) struck out eight batters and allowed just three hits in his seven innings, and Brent Jurceka (Evansville) and Adam Dian (Pittsburgh) finished off Kalamazoo. The Bucks did not surrender a walk in the game.
"All in all, we're disappointed with the loss, but we were right in the game the whole way," Growlers coach Joe Carbone said. "Kids played hard, they fought hard. We just need to work on things, get better and hopefully that'll result in wins."
The Growlers will be back at it Saturday night at 7:05, as they face the Bucks again to finish up their two-game homestand. It is Consumers Credit Union Super Saturday, and the first 500 fans will receive a miniature bobblehead of Detroit Tigers pitcher Drew Smyly, presented by Steensma Lawn and Power Equipment. Saturday is also Milham Golf Course Golf Night.
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.