It was a frustrating night of baseball for the Kenosha Kingfish on Thursday in Kalamazoo, Mich.
A day after ending the Traverse City Pit Spitters’ NWL-record 18-game winning streak, the Kingfish were just a few plays away from keeping their momentum going by sweeping a doubleheader.
Instead, it went just the opposite.
The Growlers walked off the Kingfish, both times with two outs, to sweep the doubleheader by identical 4-3 scores. The second game was seven innings.
Instead of gaining ground in the second-half Great Lakes East Division race, Kenosha dropped to 3-7 in the second half and 16-29 overall. Kalamazoo improved to 8-3 and 24-19.
In the opener Thursday, the Kingfish built a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the eighth.
Charles Middleton swiped home in the top of the second, and Roberto Pena scored on a passed ball in the top of the sixth for a 2-0 lead. After the Growlers got a run back in the bottom of the seventh, Mike Jarvis led off the top of the eighth with a double and scored on Pena’s base hit for a 3-1 lead.
But Kenosha’s bullpen couldn’t hold it.
Working admirably into his fifth inning, Wilmot graduate Troy Hickey gave up a leadoff single in the eighth and was removed for Matt Helwig. After allowing a single to his first batter, Helwig got a strikeout and a groundout to get within one out of escaping the jam.
But Kalamazoo’s Jimmy Sullivan ripped a two-out triple, his second three-bagger of the game, to tie it at 3-3.
In the top of the ninth, Tremper graduate Mitchell Buban (two hits) reached on a two-out error, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. He was left stranded, however, when Brendan Hueth popped out to short.
Helwig, who took the loss to drop to 0-1, retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth before Nick Neville doubled.
Neville advanced to third on a wild pitch, Shea Kramer walked and Miko Rodriguez came through with a walk-off single to score Neville.
Eamon Horwedel pitched the top of the ninth to earn the win and improve to 4-0.
In relief of starter Matthew Plisko, Hickey was charged with two runs (both earned) on six hits with a walk and two strikeouts in four innings.
To their credit, the Kingfish shook off the tough loss in Game 1 to rally from a 3-0 deficit in Game 2.
The Growlers got their lead via Rodriguez’s solo homer in the bottom of the first and Kramer’s two-run blast in the bottom of the third.
Kenosha rallied with three runs in the top of the sixth to tie it, however, as Luke Stephenson scored Hueth with an RBI double, Pena plated Jarvis with a base hit and Zachary Nogalski brought home Stephenson on a fielder’s choice.
But Kenosha’s leaky defense proved to be its undoing.
The Kingfish committed a whopping five errors, none more damaging than the two they made in the bottom of the seventh.
With Tanner Fallon relieving starter Kaleb Schmidt, Neville reached to open the inning on an error by second baseman Ethan Owens. With runners on first and second and two outs, Fallon uncorked a wild pitch to move the runners up.
Brooks Coetzee then hit a ball to short, but Jake Cosgrove made an error, allowing Neville to score.
The unearned run cost Fallon (3-5) a loss. Schmidt went six innings in a strong start, allowing three runs (all earned) on eight hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
Pete Joseph (1-0) got the win in relief for the Growlers.
With three games left before the All-Star break, the teams conclude their three-game series in Kalamazoo at 6:05 p.m. tonight.