LA CROSSE, WI – In one of the top pitchers’ duels of the season, 17-year-old Jack Ralston outclassed Alec Byrd as the La Crosse Loggers snuck by the Kalamazoo Growlers 2-1 on Tuesday night at Copeland Park.
Ralston (1-0), an incoming freshman at UCLA, kept the Growlers (3-6, 11-31) at bay for 6.1 innings, allowing one run on four hits. He walked one and struck out six in his first start of the year. Byrd (Florida State, 0-2) took a hard-luck loss for Kalamazoo, allowing two runs on five hits in seven innings. He hit one batter and struck out eight on 99 pitches. Ty Provencher (Long Beach State) earned his 10th save of the season, pushing the Loggers (3-4, 22-19) across the finish line with a scoreless inning and a third.
The home side broke the deadlock in the bottom of the third as Ronnie Gideon (Texas A&M) socked Byrd’s first pitch off and over the top of the left field wall for a solo home run. La Crosse got one more across in the inning as Mason McCoy (Illinois Central College/Iowa) singled with two outs, stole second, and came home on a Jordan Zimmerman (Mesa CC/Michigan State) base hit.
Kalamazoo cut the lead in half in the sixth. Bryce Adams (Delgado College/LSU) led off with a single, and Johnny Ruiz (Miami, FL) drag bunted for a hit of his own. With two outs, Jordan Stading (Houston) looped a base hit into left center to plate Adams and make it 2-1. The Growlers could not tie it though as Dylan Busby (Florida State) struck out to end the threat.
Byrd got into some trouble in the seventh, hitting a man with one out. He settled down to strike out Keith Skinner (North Florida), and then talked his way to one more showdown with Gideon, who he struck out in the fifth. The Seminole southpaw came out on top in the rubber match, forcing Gideon to fly out to right field to complete his final inning.
The Growlers got another chance in the eighth as Ruiz singled and went to third on a sac bunt and a groundout, but Busby again came up short, bouncing out to Chris Baker (Washington) at third base. It was Baker who would shine in the ninth inning as Kalamazoo put together one last rally. With one out and a man on first, Baker dove on a scorching grounder from John Soteropulos (California), saving extra bases to convert a stunning fielder’s choice. Adams then bounced out to Baker to end the game in a tight 2:16.
Ruiz led the way for Kalamazoo with two hits, while Adams has recorded a hit in two consecutive games.
Nathan Coakley (St. Francis, IN) tossed a scoreless eighth inning to keep the visitors in it. Jordan Jess (Minnesota) provided the bridge from Ralston to Provencher with 1.1 scoreless frames.
The Growlers wrap up their series with the Loggers on Wednesday night. First pitch from Copeland Park is set for 8:05 p.m. EDT.
The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. The 22-year old summer collegiate 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, 120 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 (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (OAK). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League YouTube channel. For more information, visit http://www.northwoodsleague.com.