Berard grand slam gives Crushers 6-3 win
Lake Erie takes series after big fourth inning
Just two days ago, manager Jeff Isom critiqued that hitters on his team were trying too hard to hit that a four-run home run when they should just take what they’re given.
Today, Freedom starter Brandon Mathes gave left fielder Kevin Berard a pitch in his wheel house, and Berard turned it into one of those four-run home runs previously mentioned. With two outs in the fourth inning, he hit a laser shot over the left field wall, capping a five run inning for the Crushers in which they took a 6-3 lead and never looked back. It was his first career grand slam.
“They had a mound visit, and normally after a mound visit the pitcher is gonna throw a first-pitch fastball and I was gonna jump on it. It just so happened it when over the fence,” he said.
“He wasn’t looking in that situation to hit a home run by any means, that’s not the type of hitter he is,” Isom said. “He was just looking to get something up in the zone early in the count and drive a pitch in the gap. Yeah he’s a small guy, but he is strong and there is a potential that he can hit a home run.”
Berard got the ball after Isom’s son Will tracked it down on the hill in left field. Will wrote a special note to the Crusher’s leadoff hitter, which according to Isom read “first career grand slam.”
“I think slam was spelled wrong, but it’s alright,” Isom said of his son’s gift to Berard.
The Crushers (5-7) fell behind early as starter Alex Kaminsky allowed a run in the first and two more in the third. Freedom designated hitter Byron Wiley got it all started with an RBI single back up the middle and catcher Jim Jaqout added on with a two-run single left.
Kaminsky recovered to pitch six innings, giving up just three runs on 10 hits and earning the win to improve to 1-1 on the season. Freedom starter Brandon Mathes was charged with the loss, giving up 10 runs on nine hits in only five innings for Florence (6-6).
The offense was finally able to aid their laboring starter in the bottom of the fourth. Right fielder Daniel Bowman and designated hitter Ricardo Lizcano were easily retired for the first two outs, but the Crushers used some two-out magic to take the lead.
Catcher Emmanuel Quiles hit a double to the gap in right-center, which was followed by a ground ball to second from center fielder Seth Granger. Freedom second basemen Eric Groff misplayed the ball for the second of his team’s two errors, which brought shortstop Juan Sanchez to the plate.
Coming into the series, Sanchez was hitting just .125 with men in scoring position, but he delivered an RBI single to left to get his team on the board. After a Max Casper walk, Berard came to the plate.
The Crushers never relinquished the lead after Berard’s grand slam, but the bullpen made it interesting for the second consecutive game. After an Emmanuel Quiles two-run home run in the fifth, two more runs in the sixth pushed the Crusher advantage to 10-3. Dough Shields and Michael Jahns relieved Kaminsky for the final three frames.
Shields got through two innings, allowing just a solo home run to Freedom right fielder Ryan Skellie. Jahns hit a batter and gave up three singles in the ninth, which brought the score to its final of 10-6.
“Shields did a nice job,” Isom said. “We tell our guys, late in a game, if you’ve got a lead, go out and throw strikes. I have no problem with the solo home run. The big thing [for Jahns] is he got the big strikeout to end the game.”
There’s still isn’t any established order to the bullpen, but Isom and pitching coach Chris Mongiardo are trying to figure it all out.
“I know it’s easier for a pitching staff, especially a bullpen, when they have established roles,” Isom said. “We just need some other guys to step up that I have confidence in a close game we can use them. I’m still looking for a couple more guys.”
Despite the pitching questions, the Crushers recovered to win the series with the Freedom. They will remain at home to take on Joliet Slammers in a three-game series Friday through Sunday. Matt Smith will be on the mound for the first game of the series.