Crushers fall back below .500, fall 3-1
Lake Erie not able to muster enough offense in loss
The Crushers quest to reach the .500-mark before the All-Star break will have to be completed another day.
After winning on Wednesday afternoon to improve to 23-23 on the season, the Crushers lost to Wild Things 3-1 on Thursday night, dropping to 23-24. Matt Smith was hung with the loss, but he pitched a quality start. He completed six and two-thirds innings, giving up three runs on eight hits and striking outs six batters. The loss dropped him to 2-3 on the year.
“We’re playing better baseball, and the wins will come if we continue to play baseball the way we are. I like where we’re at right now, but obviously I’d like to be a bit better,” manager Jeff Isom said.
After Wednesday’s win, the Crushers had a .500 record for just the second time in six weeks. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Things, who were paced by starter Zack LeBarron. LeBarron earned the win after pitching five and one-third innings allowing just one run. He gave up four hits and walked four batters, to go along with three strikeouts. LeBarron was making just his third start on the year, and improved to 3-0 with the victory.
“He’s a quality pitcher in this league,” Isom said. “We hit the ball hard off of him early, but then he settled in. We had five walks off him, but we couldn’t get a hit to drive home a run.
Both starters rolled through the first four innings, but Matt Smith broke down first, as the Things got to him for two runs in the fifth. It was the bottom of the order that got things going, when shortstop and number eight hitter AJ Nunziato led off the inning with a triple. Center fielder Darian Sandford sent him home with a double, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a sac fly from Things left fielder and leadoff hitter Scott Kalamar making it 2-0. Nunziato and Sandford scored all three runs for the Things on the night. According to Isom, their bottom of the order was the story of the game.
“We have to do a better of job of taking care of our business and getting those guys out,” Isom said. “They hit good pitches. In this league you’ve got good hitters one through nine. It was just their night I guess.”
The Crushers answered right away when Anderson Hidalgo singled in the sixth, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on an Emmanuel Quiles double to pull within one at 2-1. That was be all the offense could muster.
LeBarron was immediately pulled from the game after the Quiles double, and the Things’ bullpen held the Crushers scoreless for the remainder of the contest.
“I thought maybe that was gonna be our chance right there to keep adding on. Unfortunately, we left him stranded out there,” Isom said.
The Things added one more run off of Smith in the seventh inning, when Darian Sandford scored his second run of the game, this time on a single from Shain Stoner.
Jordan Wellander came on to pitch the remaining inning and a third in relief of Smith. Wellander retired all four batters he faced, including one strikeout.
Seth Granger, who popped out to the shortstop for the final out of the game, started in place of regular right fielder Daniel Bowman. Bowman was removed from the game on Wednesday in the seventh inning after fouling a pitch off his toe prior to hitting his second home run. Isom said that he is “hobbling around but should be good to go at some point this weekend.”
The Crushers have four games left before the All-Star break, as they will return home to face the Frontier Greys. By winning the series, the Crushers can finally move past the breakeven point and set themselves up for a run in the second half. They will start out with a doubleheader on Friday. Mickey Jannis is the front runner to start one of the two games, and the other starter will be brought in from outside the organization. Reliever Doug Shields was released from the roster to create a spot for another starter.