Bombers Beat – Battle to the Bitter End
It is always tough to end a season with a week-long road trip. With another long losing skid heading into a three-city trip through Wisconsin and teams vying for the last playoff spots in their respective divisions in the Northwoods League's Great Lakes Conference, the Battle Creek Bombers task was to play spoiler.
As we look into the past week, let's see if the Bomb Squad did so -
Monday, August 5th - (at) Madison 4, Battle Creek 3 - 6 Innings
The Bombers suffered their fourth straight loss and did it in a rain-shortened contest to open their season-ending Wisconsin trip. The Mallards scored a run in each of the first four innings, with the Bomb Squad mounting a comeback before the rains came. Cooper Trinkle (John A. Hodge College) drove in two runs on the night including a solo shot in the fourth inning, his second homer of the season. John Malcom (Vanderbilt) pushed across the other run. Walter Talcott (Earlham College) tossed five innings, allowing all four runs in the loss, taking him to 2-6 on the season.
Tuesday, August 6th - Major League Dreams Showcase in Madison
There were three Bombers that ended up in action in the Major League Dreams Showcase's second contest. John Malcom was originally on the home side for the game, but was moved to the away side due to roster shortages and travel considerations. Malcom would go 1-for-5 as the away team won 9-5, with five runs in the final two innings. Beaux Bonvillain (Central Oklahoma) was touched up for three runs in his inning of relief for the away squad, coming in the ninth inning. Caleb Balgaard (Iowa Western) played for the home squad, going 1-for-4 and driving in a run out of the ninth spot.
Wednesday, August 7th - (at) Madison 13, Battle Creek 0
The Bombers returned to action following the showcase to get shut down by the hosting Mallards. Josh Sheck's (California-Irvine) single in the fourth inning would be the only hit on the night for the Bomb Squad. Trevor Smisek (Saint Leo College) allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings to take the loss in his second start for the Bombers.
Thursday, August 8th - (at) Fond du Lac 10, Battle Creek 6
The Bombers started strong with three runs in the first inning. That would be the only lead, as the Dock Spiders returned with four runs in their half and never looked back. Kolby Johnson (Central Arkansas) and Mac Graybill (Kellogg Community College) each drove in two runs on the night, as Caleb Balgaard had three of the Bombers ten hits. Blaine Parker (Panola College) dropped to 0-4, allowing eight runs in four innings to take the defeat.
Friday, August 9th - (at) Fond du Lac 15, Battle Creek 6
The Dock Spiders jumped out to an 8-0 lead before the Bombers placed five runs in the fourth to make it a contest. Fond du Lac scored five in the fifth, putting the game out of reach. Jorge Gutierrez (Lamar) had a great night, driving in three runs on his 2-for-5 evening. Keith Carpenter (Maryland Eastern Shore) was shelled in 4 2/3 innings, allowing a season-high 12 runs on ten hits to drop to 1-2 on the season.
Saturday, August 10th - Battle Creek 4, (at) Kenosha 3
The Bombers would end their seven-game skid, thanks to a three-run seventh inning to put them ahead. The Bomb Squad had 13 hits, led by Caleb Balgaard and Kolby Johnson each with three. Hitters one through four - Seth Tucker (Hendrix College), Balgaard, Trace Peterson (Lake Erie College) and Cooper Trinkle - each drove in a run. Kevin Smith (Compton College) earned his second win in relief with a perfect sixth inning. Beaux Bonvillain tossed the final 1 2/3 innings, fanning three, to earn his eighth save.
Sunday, August 11th - (at) Kenosha 4, Battle Creek 2
Just like the end of the first half, Bombers manager Mike Ruppenthal had the whole lineup set to have the players in different positions in almost every inning. They would allow three runs in the first inning, but came back with a run in each of the seventh and ninth innings to end the season on a high note. Caleb Balgaard was credited for the lone RBI on the day with his third homer of the season. Seth Tucker, Cooper Trinkle and Kolby Johnson each had two hits. Walter Talcott allowed all four runs in 7 2/3 innings to take the loss, ending the season at 2-7.
Now that the 2019 campaign has come to a close, the Bombers will now work towards next season and look to improve on a season that started off hot, but cooled quickly within the first three weeks. The Traverse City Pit Spitters wrapped up the Great Lakes East Division in both halves, with the Kalamazoo Growlers earning the second playoff spot in the division based on overall record for the season.
Here is how the final second half standings finished. Overall records are in parentheses.
|Great Lakes Conference-East Division||Win||Loss||Percentage||Games Back||Streak||Last 10|
|xy - Traverse City Pit Spitters||29 (52)||7 (20)||.806||-||1L||7-3|
|Kenosha Kingfish||21 (34)||16 (38)||.568||8.5||1W||7-3|
|z - Kalamazoo Growlers||21 (37)||19 (35)||.525||10||1W||5-5|
|Kokomo Jackrabbits||14 (29)||24 (42)||.368||16||2W||4-6|
|Rockford Rivets||13 (33)||24 (39)||.351||16.5||5L||4-6|
|Battle Creek Bombers||10 (23)||27 (49)||.270||19.5||1L||2-8|
x - First Half champion; y - Second Half Champion; z - Playoffs by overall record
- The Bombers overall record was 23-49 on the season, which was the worst out of the 22-team Northwoods League. It would be just 1 1/2 games behind the Thunder Bay Border Cats among the whole league. The record is a 15-win drop from last season's 38-34 record. Last year's manager, Josh Rebandt, is in the playoffs this season leading the expansion Traverse City Pit Spitters.
- Speaking of playoffs, the Pit Spitters are in their first-ever postseason as one of the two NL expansion teams this season. They will take on the Kalamazoo Growlers, who made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season. The two teams will play in a best-of-three Division series, with Game 1 in Kalamazoo and the remaining two up north. The winner will play the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (who also won both halves in the Great Lakes West) or the Madison Mallards in a single-game Conference title game. The League championship will also be decided in a single-game on Saturday, August 17th against the champion of the Great Plains Conference. The Great Plains will feature the Waterloo Bucks, Eau Claire Express, Willmar Stingers and St. Cloud Rox in their Conferece postseason.
- Finally, we end with some highlights. Kolby Johnson only missed one game this season. He played in 69 contests, batting .257 with 14 doubles, two triples and two homers. Beaux Bonvillain's eight saves was good for sixth-most in the Northwoods, going 2-2 in 23 relief appearances, throwing 35 2/3 innings and holding a 1.77 ERA. Lastly, Walter Talcott didn't have strong record this season, but pitched the 11th-most innings in the NL with 60 1/3, and tied with seven others for second-most starts in the league with 11.