Crushers hold on late to beat Traverse City, 5-4
Traverse City pulled within a run in the top of the ninth, but Lake Erie's Jordan Wellander was able to batten down the hatches to get the Crushers a huge 5-4 over the first place Beach Bums.
It wasn't the picture perfect ending the Crushers were looking for, but Sunday's victory mean a series win over Traverse City with game three booked for Monday night. Lake Erie's bats came alive early on and powered the Crushers for five runs in the first five innings.
Seth Granger, Lake Eire's MVP of the second half of the season, had a game to remember as he belted his first home run as a Crusher on a ball that cleared the right-center field wall.
"It feels great, I've been waiting all year for that," Granger said. "Finally got good pitch and took the swing so felt good."
Sitting in the clubhouse in the bottom of the third inning, manager Jeff Isom watched Granger park the ball over the wall, only to have Granger's teammates have some fun with him.
"It was a big home run, ended up getting that first pitch and it was elevated and he put a pretty good swing on it so it's an exciting time for him," Isom said. "Guys in the dugout gave him the silent treatment. He came into the dugout, nobody did anything and he's kind of like, what's going on? And they finally went over and high fived him."
Granger's home run was a crucial run in the one-run ball game, but the biggest hit of the night came off Anderson Hidalgo's bat in the bottom of the fifth. With the bases loaded and two men out, Hidalgo's quick wrists yanked a ball down the left field line as three Crushers motored around the bases to score to put Lake Erie up 5-0 at the time.
"That's that two out hitting that we've been talking about and Hidalgo ends up turning on a pitch on the inside half and getting that big double to clear the bases," Isom said. "To me, three things were the difference in that ball game; that was one of them, getting that big bases clearing double and then also the two double plays that Mickey Jannis ended up having in the following innings right after that."
Defensively, the Crushers were stellar with four double plays turned with Jannis on in relief leading the charge.
"We built this team around defense and if we get ground balls, we've got to be able to turn a double play and these guys do a real nice job of taking pride in the defense," Isom said. "When there is an opportunity to turn a double play, there's a pretty good chance they'll do it."
Stater Matt Smith gave Lake Erie another solid start Saturday to earn his fourth win of the year. Smith finished his day with 5.1 innings tossed and gave up two runs on seven hits.
The Crushers had a clear path to the win with bullpen "ace" Mickey Jannis coming in for the long save opportunity. Jannis pitched three innings and gave up two earned runs in the top of the ninth to make this one very interesting.
Isom pulled Jannis with one out away in favor of Jordan Wellander and not closer Dale Dickerson, who struggled on Saturday night to get things going.
Wellander ended up closing out the game for the Crusher to put the team tied for second with Southern Illinois in the tightly contested East division.
"Anytime you get into the ninth inning, it's tough to get those three outs sometimes and as of recent it's been tough to get three outs, especially in the closer games," Isom said. "Wellander came in and shut the door there, he got that big strikeout [looking] to end the game, but Jannis has been our main guy in the bullpen and he continues to go out there and give us very productive innings."
The Crusher will look to sweep Traverse City with a win Monday night at All Pro Freight Stadium.