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Teen Angst: 14 Hits Not Enough as Growlers Fall to Rafters

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, WI – Nick Yarnall (Pittsburgh) drove in two runs with a bloop single in the top of the ninth, but the Kalamazoo Growlers’ 14th hit of the night would be their last as the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters held on for a dramatic 5-4 win on Saturday night at Witter Field.

Down 5-2 in the ninth, John Soteropulos (California) struck out but reached first base on a dropped third strike. Jordan Stading (Houston) followed with a slow roller down the first base line that pitcher John Jaeger (Pacific) threw away. After Bryce Adams (Delgado CC/LSU) struck out, Alex Gosser hit a grounder to the right side that was deflected at first base and grabbed by second baseman Ernie Clement (Virginia), who tossed over to Jaeger on the bag. Both runners move up a base, then Yarnall broke his bat on the first pitch, sending a looper down the left field line that fell to plate two. Yarnall was the tying run on base but stayed put as Johnny Ruiz (Miami) flew out to left to end the game.

The Growlers’ (5-19, 13-44) 14 hits were their most since July 1 at Madison, but the Rafters (9-11, 22-32) survived as Kalamazoo stranded 13 men on base, including eight in scoring position. Kalamazoo had hits in every inning but the first.

Wisconsin Rapids jumped on the board in the second inning as Sam Tolleson (Central Florida) scored on a Clement fielder’s choice. The Growlers took their first lead in the top of the third. Justin Fletcher (Northern Illinois) singled home Kory Brown (Bowling Green), then Angelo Armenta (USC) came scored on a throwing error as Fletcher stole second. The lead was Kalamazoo’s first since July 14 at Lakeshore.

The lead was short-lived, however, as a two-run home run by Ryan Cleveland (Georgia Southern) gave the Rafters a 3-2 advantage in their half of the third. Wisconsin Rapids added insurance in the fifth when Brock Carpenter (Seattle) singled home Zack Domingues (Long Beach State) after a double. The home side plated the eventual winning run in the eighth when Bryce Jordan (LSU) hit a sac fly to score his twin brother Beau (LSU).

Jay Peters (UW-Milwaukee, 3-1) earned the win with five innings of two-run, eight hit ball. He walked two and struck out four on 84 pitches. Andrew Shepherd (Jackson College, 0-3) was saddled with the loss after allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits in five innings. Jaeger bent but did not break to earn his first save of the season.

Kalamazoo hit the ball hard all game but was often undone by pure bad luck. With the bases loaded and one out in the second, Ruiz hit a screaming line drive right back to the mound. Peters snagged it with the glove and tossed over to first base to double off Corey Dempster (USC) and end the threat. Armenta came to bat in the same situation in the fourth, but his liner went right to second baseman Clement, who doubled off Brown and again kept the Growlers off the board.

Stading flipped the script on Wisconsin Rapids in the fourth. With a man on first and no out, Bryce Jordan hit a scorcher to third base that Stading stabbed at and caught on the second chance. The Houston man easily doubled off the runner at first base after a failed hit-and-run attempt.

Armenta, Stading, Adams, Dempster, and Brown each had two hits for the Growlers, while Soteropulos doubled in the fifth for Kalamazoo’s only extra-base hit of the evening. Carpenter led the way for Wisconsin Rapids, going 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI.

Nathan Coakley (St. Francis, IN) tossed two scoreless innings in relief of Shepherd, while Nick Wernke (West Virginia) handled duties for Kalamazoo in the eighth. Ethan Evanko (Grand Canyon), Joey Graziano (St. John’s), and Austin Paisar (Sacramento City College) served as the bridge from Peters to Jaeger, as each man tossed a scoreless inning.

The Growlers complete their four-game road trip early on Sunday afternoon against the Rafters. First pitch from Witter Field is set for 1:05 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