BY CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — It doesn't matter that the Beach Bums' bats didn't exactly break out of their little early-season slump.
More important was doing whatever it took to get a win that snapped a two-game losing streak.
Traverse City (3-4) scored all four of its runs in the seventh inning to pull out a come-from-behind 4-3 win over Rockford on Friday in the opening game of a series at Wuerfel Park.
The Bums, who were limited to seven hits, had five of those in the decisive seventh inning — three on infield hits — to erase a 3-0 deficit. Scott Dunn pitched strong for most of his seven innings, while the Traverse City bullpen held Rockford off the basepaths in the last two innings.
"It was a little bit of a slow start," said Traverse City right fielder Sean Gusrang. "It's good to know as a team we can do that, come back from three runs down. We had a bunch of infield singles, but whatever it takes."
The Bums hadn't had a runner advance beyond first base heading into the seventh, but after Rockford turned to its bullpen in the seventh Traverse City was able to make something happen on offense. Chase Burch led off with a double, with Gusrang and Zach Kometani following with singles, the latter driving in TC's first run of the game off Rockford reliever Kelley Wagner. Marcus Nidiffer added an RBI single two batters later after the Aviators turned to closer Garrett Granitz. Matt Howard tied the game when he singled in Kometani and Andrew Kohn brought home the game-winning run on a sacrifice to center that scored Nidiffer.
"Offensively we clearly weren't competing well for the first six innings," said TC manager Gregg Langbehn. "It got better. We started to fight a little more in that seventh inning, strung some things together. Certainly didn't knock the ball around the ball park, but they were well placed."
Prior to Traverse City's offensive outburst, the Bums had been held in check by Rockford starter Jon Gulbransen. The left-hander threw six innings of two-hit ball with seven strikeouts and no walks.
"Their starter was great. He threw really well," Langbehn said. "His fastball he was moving it in and out and he had a really good change-up. He was giving us some fits. We seemed to have better at bats as the game progressed."
Both pitchers were cruising through the first five innings of a scoreless game, but Rockford was able to manufacture three runs in the sixth on four hits. The Aviators got rolling after Traverse City outfielders Howard and Gusrang collided on a fly ball from Alvaro Ramirez between center and right field. Ramirez ended up with a triple on the play and scored the game's first run one batter later on a single from Ted Obregon.
"It was just a little miscommunication," said Howard, who got the start in center. "We don't play out there together often. He called it first, then the ball started turning and I called it. We both just wanted to make a play. We were lucky (to not get injured)."
Gusrang took the blame for the crash.
"That's my fault," he said. "The center fielder has a right of way when he calls it. I should've let Howard have that ball. He called it a little late, but he had it. I heard him call it a little late and I said, 'uh-oh' in my head. I actually had it in my glove, then it popped out when we fell. He's a big guy. We're both lucky to get out of there uninjured."
That seemed to rattle Dunn a bit as Rockford (1-6) put together four straight hits. Kenny Bryant had an RBI single and Matt Greener drove in a run with a sacrifice to center.
"I had a little hiccup in the sixth, but overall I felt like I was locating my pitches very well, my defense had my back and it was only a matter of time before we got the bats going," said Dunn. "I think I got to the point where I rushed myself. I wasn't slowing the game down like I usually do. I was going too quick."
The Traverse City starter eventually got out of the inning, then came back in the seventh to strike out the side. He allowed five hits, struck out five and walked one.
"I thought Dunn threw awesome," Langbehn said. "Just a couple of pitches with two strikes hurt him, but overall he was great."
Scott Mueller faced three batters in the eighth and Matt Miller got the save after working a quick ninth.