Crushers fold late in 7-6 loss
CornBelters finish three-game sweep of Lake Erie
Beat me once, shame on you; beat me twice, shame on me; beat me three times, I'll pack my bags and go home.
That's roughly how the saying goes, anyway. At least, that's the version the Crushers will be saying as they leave Normal, Illinois in a fashion that has been the opposite of normal for them of late.
The Crushers came into this series against the CornBelters as the Frontier League's hottest team, flying high on an 11-game win streak. They head home after being swept by the Frontier League's new hottest team, as the CornBelters now find themselves in the midst of a six-game winning streak.
Thursday night's 7-6 loss caped off the sweep and it was the toughest lost of the series because it's the type of game that this team has grown used to winning. The Crushers jumped out to a 5-1 lead before collapsing in the late innings.
The first two runs came in the first inning on the heels of an error by CornBelters leftfielder Regelio Norris. Craig Hertler led off the inning with a triple and scored when Seth Granger reached second off of the aforementioned error. Granger moved up to third on a sac fly, and scored an unearned run when Andrew Davis grounded out to second base.
The Crushers scored two more in the third to push the lead to 4-0. David Roney, Hertler, and Granger loaded the bases with nobody out. Daniel Bowman plated run number three with a sac fly, and Davis followed that up with his second RBI groundout of the night.
The Crushers made it 5-1 on an RBI single from Craig Hertler in the fourth. From there, it all went down hill.
Alex Kaminsky was cruising along, doing his thing, and enjoying a comfortable lead heading into the seventh, which has typically been the Crushers' recipe for success: give the starting pitcher some leeway and let him shut down the opposing lineup without any pressure. It was all working out just like they drew it up.
But after a strikeout to start the inning, Kaminsky gave up a single and a walk. He was immediately pulled for Brandon Smith, who compounded the issue by hitting the first batter he faced.
Bases-loaded, nobody out, and the Crushers leading by four. Smith has been a normally reliable reliever, but with one pitch he gave away the lead. Mike Schwartz deposited an 0-1 pitch over the wall for a grand slam and the game was tied at five.
The grand slam closed the book on Kaminsky, who gave up three runs on five hits in six and a third innings. Brandon Smith retired the next two hitters he saw in the inning and in two-thirds of an inning he gave up two runs on one hit.
But these Crushers are resilient and on the first pitch of the eight inning, Bowman picked up his pitchers. He belted a ball over the right-field wall to take the lead right back 6-5.
Dale Dickerson came on for the save in the ninth looking for his 15th save. He induced a groundball from T.J. Gavlik to start the inning but an error by Russ Moldenhauer allowed Gavlik to go to second. A sacrifice bunt pushed Gavlik to third and Mike Schwartz came to the plate.
Schwartz singled to send home the unearned run and tie the game at six. It was his fifth RBI of the ball game. He advanced to second on a Keoni Manago walk and Aaron Dudley ended the game with a walk-off double. The sweep was completed.
Luckily for the Crushers, they maintained their 2.5 game lead in the East because Traverse City was also swept and is in the midst of a five-game losing streak.
The Crushers return home to face the Schaumburg Boomers, but the West division leaders will not be an easy test. Jason Wilson is Friday night's probable starter. It will be his third start and second at All Pro Freight Stadium. He was not the pitcher of record in either of his two prior starts.