Crushers fall 9-2 to Otters
Lake Erie records 13 hits but manages to score only two runs
Home plate umpire Pete Peederson frantically waved off the run at the end of the fifth inning.
Leadoff man Kevin Berard lined a single to center which would have scored Juan Sanchez, but Seth Granger was thrown out trying to advance from first to third before Sanchez could touch the plate.
It was that kind of night for the Crushers (9-13), who failed to cash in on scoring opportunities against Otters' starter Bryce Morrow. They managed just two runs on 13 hits as they dropped the series opener to Evansville (15-6) by a score of 9-2. Morrow pitched eight innings giving up just one run on 10 hits, striking out six and earning the victory
"We got ourselves in a hole early on," Manager Jeff Isom said. "We tried to swing our way out of it; we needed to scratch something on the board early and we couldn't do it."
Not only did the offense struggle to score runs, but starter Alex Kaminsky put them in a hole early, giving up five runs and getting through just two innings on the mound as he falls to 1-2 on the season. He allowed five hits, but most of the trouble he faced was his own doing. He walked two, hit a batter, and threw three wild pitches, most of which occurred in the Otters' three-run second inning.
"You have to go in and get ahead of hitters and locate. He didn't do that," Isom said of his starter.
That was a recipe for disaster, as Kaminsky was matched up against an Otters' lineup which leads the Frontier League in hitting. That lineup continuously took advantage of Kaminsky's leaving pitches over the middle of the plate.
The Otters took the lead on the fourth pitch in the first inning on a solo home run from number three hitter Nick Schwaner. Kaminsky recovered to retire clean-up hitter Andrew Clark, but doomed his team in the second inning.
Otters' designated hitter Frank Martinez led off the inning with a single to left field and scored by moving station to station on Kaminsky's three wild pitches. A double to left field by leadoff man John Schultz later in the inning scored Taylor Black and Ryan Kresky, who reached on a walk and hit-by-pitch respectively, and made it 4-0.
The final run allowed by Kaminsky came in the third inning. He walked Clark to lead off the inning, and the Otters' first baseman came around to score on a single from Black.
Newly reacquired Mickey Jannis came in to relieve Kaminsky with two on and nobody out in the third inning. Jannis, who was traded to the Bridgeport of the Atlantic League at his request before the season for a player to be named later, was brought back as the player to be named later in the deal. He pitched four scoreless innings in his season debut, keeping the Crushers deficit at a manageable level.
"He did exactly what we were hoping he would do," Isom said. "We didn't want to lose [Mickey] in the first place. We told him we'd honor [what he wanted to]. Things didn't work out over there, so they offered him back."
Brian Duffy came on in the seventh inning in place of Jannis, and the right-hander pitched a scoreless inning of his own. In the eighth inning, however, Doug Shields could not keep the success of the bullpen going, as he allowed four runs on three hits, a walk, and a hit batter.
The Otters' number-nine hitter Ryan Kresky walked to lead off the inning and scored on a sac fly two batters later. A double from Clark plated two more, and an RBI single from Martinez closed the curtain on the Otters' offensive showcase.
"You see what Evansville did; they used all fields. They'd go the other way if the ball was outside. They weren't over swinging at things," Isom said.
The Crushers finally broke through in the eighth thanks to a two-out, RBI, bloop single from Andrew Davis, and managed one more in the ninth off of an RBI single to center from Max Casper to make the final score 9-2. Casper was 4-4 in tonight's game, and is hitting .462 over the last eight games. He opened the season as the team's utility man, but has worked his way into the starting lineup.
"He puts together a pretty good at bat," Isom said. "He battles up there. With two strikes he's gonna foul some stuff off and wait until he gets something to hit."
Casper's at bat in the ninth exemplifies Isom's comments. He fell behind in the count 0-2, fouled off tough pitches from Otters' reliever Patrick Crider, worked the count to 3-2, and lined an RBI single to center.
"I just try to stay inside the ball," Casper said. "I just stick to the basics.
"You have to try to get into a routine. You have to prepare yourself the same way whether you're in the lineup or not."
The Crushers will try to rebound tomorrow in game two of the series, and certainly aren't discouraged after tonight's performance.
"It's a long season," Casper said. "We're not that far into it and we're not out of it by any means. We just have to come out tomorrow and try to take it to them.
Lefty Matt Rein will be on the mound as he looks to play the role of stopper and end the team's two-game losing streak.
Notes: Aside from reacquiring Jannis, the Crushers made 5 other roster moves prior to Tuesday night's game. Relief pitcher Michael Jahns was activated off the disabled list. Reliever Ben Klafczynski, who was with the team last year, was reacquired after a short stint in the Red Sox organization. To make room for these three pitchers, Trevor Longfellow, Spencer Clifft, and Ricky Bowen were all cut.