Wausau, WI – The Kalamazoo Growlers came into Wednesday night’s game with the Wisconsin Woodchucks reeling, having lost five straight games, and five consecutive road contests. After producing seven runs on 11 hits in Tuesday’s 15-7 loss, the Growlers upped their offense to a higher gear, scoring 16 runs on 14 hits to beat the Woodchucks at Athletic Park on Wednesday night, earning a split of the series and ending their season long five game losing streak.
The Growlers (11-15, 31-31) and starter Garvin Alston (Arizona State) got off to another slow start, and the Woodchucks (15-11, 28-33) took advantage, scoring three runs in the first inning to knock Alston out of the game. The Growlers manufactured a run in the top of the 2nd inning on an RBI double from Dan Robinson (Central Michigan), which followed a double from Sam Griggs (Southern Indiana) to begin the frame. The ‘Chucks came right back, however, plating two more runs in the second inning on a two-run home run from Stevie Mangrum (Virginia Tech) to take a 5-1 into the top of the 3rd.
Trailing by four, the Growlers produced an explosive top of the 3rd inning, scoring five runs. After Kevin Phelps (Indiana-South Bend) singled to lead off the frame, Mitch Anderson (Kalamazoo Valley CC) and Matt Lloyd (Iowa Western) also singled to load the bases for Nick Hutchins (Southern Illinois). Hutchins grounded into a run-scoring fielder’s choice to cut the deficit to 5-2 for the Growlers. Griggs then singled to load the bases again in the frame, this time for Robinson, who delivered the big blow, a grand slam home run over the right field fence, giving the Growlers a 6-5 lead heading into the bottom of the frame.
The ‘Chucks answered, with Jared Oliva (Arizona) delivering a two-run home run off Growlers reliever Jesse Wheeler (Shorter University) to help the Woodchucks regain a 7-6 lead heading to the 4th inning. The ‘Chucks got two more runs in the bottom of the 4th and were seemingly in control, leading 9-6 entering the top of the 5th.
Trailing by three, and seemingly headed for a sixth straight loss, the Growlers found even more firepower offensively.
In the top of the 5th, after Hutchins singled with one out, Griggs smashed a two-run home run over the left-field fence to cut the ‘Chucks lead to 9-8. Robinson then walked and stole second before Brandon Gomez (Nova Southeastern) blasted another two-run home run for the Growlers to left-center, giving them a 10-9 lead.
The Growlers did not stop there, striking again in the 7th inning to the tune of three more runs. After Griggs and Robinson singled and walked respectively to begin the frame, a costly error by Woodchucks shortstop George Janca (Texas A&M) on a ground ball off the bat of Darius Coldiron (Coker College) allowed both runs to score, giving the Growlers a 12-9 advantage. The Growlers produced one more run in the frame, with Phelps using a sacrifice bunt to score Coldiron from third base.
With a 13-9 advantage in the top of the 8th, the Growlers again used some small ball to tack on insurance for reliever Hayden Brauser (Pratt CC). Lloyd began the frame with a walk, and then was replaced by pinch runner Connor Kopach. After Hutchins singled, Kopach stole third and was then driven by a double off the bat of Griggs to give the Growlers a five run cushion. After Robinson walked, Gomez grounded out to score Hutchins, which was followed by a Coldiron sacrifice fly that enabled Griggs to trot in for the Growlers 16th run.
With the Growlers leading 16-9 entering the bottom of the 8th, Brauser gave up a two-run home run to Oliva, which cut the lead to 16-11. Brauser settled down in the 9th, however, holding onto the lead while getting a double play and a routine groundout to end the game and secure a 16-11 win for the Growlers to stop their five-game slide.
With the victory, the Growlers snapped a season-high five-game losing streak, and a season high five-game road losing streak. Prior to Wednesday’s victory, their last road win came on July 24 against the Lakeshore Chinooks. This was the final meeting between the two teams with the Growlers taking the season series 5-3. The teams combined for 27 runs on Wednesday, which followed up a 22-run total on Tuesday. The 16 runs in the win are a season high for the Growlers, with their previous high also coming against the Woodchucks on June 11 at Homer Stryker Field. This was the Growlers first win this season when allowing their opponent to score ten or more runs in a game this season.
In going 5-5 on Wednesday, Griggs became the tenth player in the Northwoods League this season to record five hits in a single game. Javier Martinez (Dupage) of the Woodchucks was the last player to do so, going 5-5 against the Growlers on in the ‘Chucks win on Tuesday. Griggs’ five-hit outing on Wednesday followed up his first four-hit game of the season on Tuesday night. Robinson’s 3rd inning grand slam was his first home run of the season, and the fourth grand slam by a Growler this season. The home run by Gomez in the 5th inning was his sixth of the season, one behind Hutchins for the team lead. The Growlers have now hit 38 home runs this season, with 28 of them coming in the second half, and 18 coming on the road. The Growlers have hit eight home runs against the Woodchucks this season, the most they have hit against any single team. In allowing three more home runs to the Woodchucks, the Growlers have now given up 54 long balls, second most in the Northwoods League only to the Rochester Honkers.
After flying out to center field in a pinch-hit appearance in the 9th inning, Connor Kopach (Southern Illinois) snapped his season high 11-game hitting streak. Griggs and Lloyd extended hitting streaks to nine and ten games respectively. Despite having his hitting streak end, Kopach did steal a base in the 8th inning, his Northwoods League leading 41st of the season. Robinson walked three times, and is now up to a team leading 44 walks. It is the 14th time this season he has had two or more walks in one game.
Brauser went five innings, scattering seven hits and allowing two earned runs and two walks. He also struck out one en route to picking up his third win of the season to improve to 3-1. The Woodchucks had scored in four straight frames to begin the game before Brauser entered in the 5th inning and produced three consecutive shutout innings.
With the win the Growlers are now two games ahead of the Rockford Rivets for fourth place in the Northwoods League South overall standings, keeping them in the playoff hunt. They are 5.5 games back of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters in the 2nd half south standings. With the loss, the Woodchucks are 1.5 games behind the Rafters in the 2nd half south standings and 2.5 games behind the Growlers for fourth in the overall standings.
The Growlers will continue their four-game road trip tomorrow night, as they take on the Green Bay Bullfrogs. Devin Pellien (Nova Southeastern) will get the nod for the Growlers as they try to win a second straight game, with first pitch slated for 7:05 PM CDT from Joannes Stadium.
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 northwoodsleague.com/kalamazoo-growlers/ or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store and set the Growlers as your favorite team