Anthony Catalano came up in the bottom of the sixth for his second at-bat. He pinch-hit for an injured David Coppedge the inning before, striking out, and was still battling some back tightness sustained the day before. The bases were loaded, and Battle Creek had just brought in its top reliever, Brayden Lloyd. Catalano quickly got down two strikes, and was facing a similar fate to his prior plate appreance. Then Lloyd hung another off-speed pitch over the middle of the plate, and Catalano smoked it into the right field gap, clearing the bases and giving the Growlers a 9-8 lead they would not relinquish.
The game was an offensive shootout from a start. Battle Creek put a four spot on Kalamazoo starter Michael Dunkelberger in the top of the first. The Growlers immediately responded, scoring two. The game immediately became a bullpen contest; five more pitchers would enter the game for Kalamazoo, including George Ferguson, who went a valiant four innings and Collin Witzke, who tossed five outs of shutout ball. Just like in the 13-1 win in Battle Creek, Bombers starter Caleb Smith struggled to command his pitchers, walking four in two and a third innings and letting five cross home plate. Smith was yanked in the bottom of the third after designated hitter Nolan McCarthy, making his Growlers debut, singled, and scored on a bases-loaded walk. Coppedge then ripped a chopper through the five-six hole allowing Satchell Wilson and Devin Burkes to score. Four new arms would toe the Homer Stryker rubber for Battle Creek before the night ended, including starting catcher Drew Dyer.
Battle Creek scored one in the top of the fourth, and sent Isaac Van Dyke out to pitch the bottom of the frame. He had success early on with his breaking ball. However, the Davenport pitcher threw four straight off-speed pitches to McCarthy, and the Portage native tattooed the fourth, sending it over the fence in left field for the first Kalamazoo dinger of the year.
The rising sophomore finished the day 2-3 with two walks and three runs scored.
“I was just trying to see the ball over the plate and get a swing on it,” McCarthy said. “The first at bat, I didn’t get anything. Next time, he threw me four straight sliders, and I didn’t miss the last one.”
The seesaw battle continued, as the Cereal City plated two in the sixth thanks to a walk and an RBI double. Kalamazoo immediately struck back. Three walks to McCarthy, Wilson and Burkes loaded the bases, and Catalano’s double drove them all in. Burkes wheeled all the way from first as the winning run with one intention on his mind.
“I told Coach [third-base coach Fred Jones] he couldn’t stop me. We were rolling – high speed,” Burkes said. “The catcher stepped up to get the throw, and I snuck my right hand in [at home plate].”
Burkes’ run made the difference as the Growlers shut the door. New arrival Hayden Berg induced a 6-4-3 double play in the top of the eighth, and struck out two in the ninth for the save.
The Growlers welcome the Kokomo Jackrabbits to Homer Stryker Field tomorrow. First pitch is at 1:05 P.M.