By Cooper Perkins
Kalamazoo, Mich. – A collection of bizarre sequences and missed opportunities in the late innings of Sunday’s ballgame sank the Rafters (11-8) to a 5-3 loss and voided their opportunity to complete the four-game sweep of the Kalamazoo Growlers (11-9).
After falling behind 3-0 thanks to a pair of RBI singles and a solo home run, the Rafters began their comeback bid with a line drive home run off the bat of Logan Mattix (Georgia College) in the top of the fourth inning. The Rafter center fielder roped a line drive toward the left field corner that narrowly squeaked over the three-foot fence and drop into the short porch for a two-fun blast. The home run would be one of three hits for Mattix, who finished the night three-for-three with a walk—just a triple shy of the cycle.
Several innings later in the top of the sixth inning, Ben Fisher (Eastern Kentucky) worked his way to a 3-1 count and jumped on a mistake pitch from Jacob Piechota, sending it over the right-center field wall and tying the game 3-3. The home run was Fisher’s team-leading fourth of the season and marked the second occasion in which the first baseman has homered in consecutive contests.
In the top of the eighth inning, with the score still knotted at 3-3, the Rafters mounted a promising rally with a leadoff single from Jake Lumley (Canisius), a walk by Mattix, and an infield single by Doak Dozier (Virginia). With two outs and Patrick Cromwell (Clemson) on to pinch hit, a quick throw to third base from catcher Nick Hutchins caught Lumley off the base for the final out of the inning, holding the score tied.
Matters would complicate further in the bottom of the eighth, when a roller to third base off the bat of Nico Hutchins clipped the base and jumped eight feet into the air, flying over the head of Cromwell, the third baseman, and rolling into shallow left field for a one-out double. On the next play, another grounder to third. Cromwell fielded and uncorked a wild throw to first, allowing Hutchins to advance to third and Camden Duzenack to take two bases, ending on second. With the infield in and still just one out, Brandon Gomez lofted a soft pop fly to the edge of the outfield grass that dropped for a hit and allowed both runners to score, putting the Growlers in front 5-3.
Down to their final swings, the Rafters stiffened to manufacture a bases-loaded one-out opportunity in the top of the ninth, courtesy of a Cromwell single and walks to both Rob Calabrese (Illinois-Chicago) and Dustin Woodcock (SIU-Edwardsville). Unfortunately for the Rafters, Jake Lumley would slap a well-hit line drive directly at right fielder Dan Robinson and Joey Morgan would strike out on a check swing to end the game, stranding the tying runs on base.
In the loss, starter Jake Repavich (Grand Canyon) threw five solid innings for the Rafters, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks, while striking out one. The southpaw’s first start of the season was not enough to lift the Rafters, however, as he did not factor into the decision.
The loss sinks the Rafters to 11-8 on the season and leaves them 3-1 against Kalamazoo at the halfway point of their season series with the Growlers. The Rafters will have Monday off before returning to action at Witter Field against the Lakeshore Chinooks on Tuesday with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. and gates opening at 6:05 p.m.