Crushers hold on for 7-5 victory
Lake Erie survives late surge from Wild Things, wins seventh straight
The Crushers scored early, and then they hung on for dear life.
After jumping out to a 6-0 lead, the Crushers out-lasted a 5-1 Wild Things rally to win their seventh-straight game and move into a tie for first place with Traverse City, who lost to the Frontier Greys 5-3.
By a final score of 7-5, the Crushers did away with the Wild Things behind their early offensive effort. They scored five runs in the first two innings before going into cruise control on offense.
“We just gotta do a better job of continuing to add on throughout the game,” manager Jeff Isom said. “But it was an outstanding start to the game giving us a little bit of leeway.”
Andrew Davis brought in the first run, pulling a single to right that scored Craig Hertler. After a double from Russ Moldenhauer, Anderson Hidalgo delivered two more runs with a single to left to make it 3-0.
The second inning was all about aggressive base running, specifically that of leadoff man Craig Herter. Juan Sanchez doubled with one out in the inning and he scored as Hertler hustled out a double on a ball hit to center. Hertler went on to show even more ability on the base paths, as he scored from second on a groundout from Seth Granger. Although, he was aided by a bit of luck, as Wild Things’ catcher Mario Mercedes dropped the ball on the tag on what was already a bang-bang play.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Hertler said. “I see coach waving me in so I thought it was a base hit. I see the play at the plate and I’m thinking, ‘the right fielder freaking hosed me…wow, what a throw.’ So then I tried to get around the tag and he actually tagged me right in the face so I’m thinking, ‘wow, I’m out, and I got tagged in the face.’ I saw the ball get away…that’s cool I get the run. But I was confused at first.”
Hertler continues to be the spark plug on offense, and he went 4-for-4 in the victory.
“Hitting’s contagious. So it’s nice to start the first at bat with a hit, kind of get the other guys going,” he said. “Before the game Isom let us know that [the pitcher] is around the zone, he throws strikes. So our game plan was kind of to be aggressive and hop on that first pitch, don’t fall behind. If he was coming at us with strikes just jump on it.”
The Crushers made it 6-0 when Daniel Bowman socked a solo home run to left in the sixth inning.
While the offense began to coast, starting pitcher Mickey Jannis was also cruising through this one. Through six innings, he allowed only three base runners. In the seventh, the Wild Things finally got to him.
With two on and two out, Wild Things short stop AJ Nunziato cracked a two-run single to center to make it a 6-2 game. Jannis was give one more opportunity to get out of it, but was pulled in favor of Jordan Wellander after walking the number nine hitter. Wellander struck out the next hitter to end the frame.
Jannis wound up earning the victory to improve to a perfect 7-0 on the season, but Isom was most impressed by the fact that he showed such toughness pitching on just three days’ rest.
“He did a nice job. He gave everything he had. And, yeah, he hit a wall there late, but he gave us an opportunity to win that ballgame.”
The Crushers added one more in the bottom of the seventh on a sac fly from Bowman. The run pushed them out to a more comfortable 7-2 lead.
But the Wild Things struck against Wellander, too. Center fielder Shain Stoner led off with a single, setting the stage for CJ Beatty.
Beatty, whom Wild Things’ broadcaster referred to as “CJ Hollywood”, blasted a two-run home run past the scoreboard in right field. His moon-shot made it a 7-4 game and got the Crushers bullpen stirring. Brad Duffy came into pitch with two outs and finished the inning.
Dale Dickerson came on in the ninth trying to nail down his 12th save. Thankfully, he had a three-run cushion to work with, because the Wild Things did damage against him as well. With two men out, Beatty earned himself another RBI, lacing a double into the gap in left-center and trimming the Crushers' lead to 7-5.
Dickerson punched out the next hitter, Quincy Latimore, to close it out and keep the season-high win streak alive.
While Wellander, Duffy, and Dickerson all did their job by ending the game with the lead intact, none of them looked their usual selves on the mound. Isom called it just “one of those nights,” and he isn’t worried about his key relievers.
“That’s gonna happen over the course of a season,” he said. “The bullpen has done a fine job. We’ll be back in action again tomorrow and get back to putting up zeroes on the board.”
The Crushers will go for their second straight sweep on Thursday night. Right-hander Matt Smith will be on the hill, looking to improve on his 4-3 record.