Wheaton, Growlers Pitchers Assert Dominance in Opening Day Triumph Over Battle Creek
It was the first matchup for either side outside of Homer-Stryker Field since 2019. With last year’s Michigan Pod taking place in Kalamazoo, both teams welcomed the change of scenery and a C.O. Brown Stadium littered with fans as the sun set on Memorial Day.
Wheaton wasted no time settling in, striking out the side in the first inning. The 4-year Growler showed exceptional control of his fastball all night long, and worked at a brisk pace on the bump in his first outing at C.O. Brown Stadium since high school.
Kalamazoo’s offense was a total group effort on Monday, with six different Growlers either scoring a run or registering an RBI. However, if there was one standout early, it was third baseman Luke Storm. The Duke Blue Devil reached base in each of his first three appearances, scoring twice and helping the Growlers out to an early 3-0 lead.
Battle Creek was notably short handed, with only 15 rostered players, the Bombers had three rostered pitchers playing various positions on the field. A few early errors did not help their account either. Still, the Growlers grinded out at-bats early and often to build a lead, and never looked back. In the 4th, a Stephen Cullen double made it 4-0 Growlers. Cullen later came around on a Storm single, stretching the lead to five.
Wheaton remained in control on the hill, going 7 innings and striking out 12, only allowing a pair of runs on seven hits. There is much interest around the Northwoods League to see how Wheaton will follow up his stellar 0.60 ERA from 2020. Early indications are that he’s more than up to the task.
Eventually, the combination of Nolan Lamere and Beaux Bonvillain stymied the Growlers bats through the latter portions of the contest. The pressure was on the Kalamazoo bullpen to mirror Wheaton’s success – and they did just that.
George Ferguson cruised through the 8th inning, picking up two strikeouts, followed up by David Toth working around a few walks to put up a scoreless frame in the ninth. This, along with a Cullen RBI single in the 8th inning, was enough for the Growlers to clinch a 6-2 victory to start the 2021 campaign.
The two teams will be back at it again tomorrow night, in yet another installment of the I-94 Rivalry Cup. First pitch from C.O. Brown Stadium is set for 6:35 p.m. ET.