COMSTOCK PARK — A night after racking up 15 runs on 15 hits, the Traverse City Pit Spitters had their bats held mostly in check.
The Pit Spitters managed just one hit through five innings against Kalamazoo before breaking through for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning Wednesday. But it wouldn’t be enough as Traverse City lost a home game on the road, falling 7-4 to the Growlers at LBCU Ballpark just north of Grand Rapids — the home of the Detroit Tigers Triple-A affiliate West Michigan Whitecaps.
The Growlers (13-10) jumped out 2-0 on a two-out double from Luke Storm in the third. In the fourth, Edgardo Villegas clocked another two-out, two-RBI two-bagger to double Kalamazoo’s lead. After another two-out RBI hit from Trey Lipsey, the Spitters found themselves in a 5-0 hole.
The only hit and baserunner the Pit Spitters (10-14) had through the first five innings came off the bat of Ariel Garcia, who hit a two-out single up the middle and into center field in the bottom of the second. Traverse City went down in order in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings as well as the seventh against Kalamazoo starter Adam Wheaton. The 6-2 righty from Lamar University tossed 7.2 innings and allowed four runs on seven hits while striking out seven and walking none.
The Pit Spitters started their march to a comeback in the sixth. Jake Smallwood doubled home the first run, and Sam Tackett singled home two more to cut the lead to 5-3.
The Growlers, however, capitalized on pitching and catching mistakes in the seventh. After a walk and a stolen base to lead off the inning, a throwing error and a wild pitch brought home a run. The next batter struck out but reached on a dropped-third strike, and a base hit a few batters down the Growlers’ lineup increased the lead to 7-3.
The Pit Spitters added one in the eighth on another Smallwood RBI but left a key runner on third. Traverse City put runners on in the ninth, but a double play ended the game.
Traverse City begins a six-game road trip on Thursday when the Pit Spitters head to Kokomo, Indiana, to take on the last-place Jackrabbits in a Great Lakes East Division matchup. The Spitters are 2.5 games up on the Jackrabbits and are now 3.5 games behind the first-place Growlers after Wednesday’s loss.
The Pit Spitters are hopeful the upcoming road trip is more successful than their last when they lost all six games en route to a season- and franchise-worst seven-game losing streak. Derek Clark and his 1.93 ERA are scheduled to take the mound against Kokomo with a 6:35 p.m. first pitch.