Crushers lose fourth straight; fall 8-2
Rein pitches gem, but Crushers cannot sustain momentum
Much to the delight of the kids sitting on the hill in left field, Freedom shortstop Junior Arrojo led off the sixth with a solo home run to left field. In hot pursuit, one young boy appeared to be hit by the Florence lead off man’s shot; the Crushers felt his pain the rest of the night.
Going into the sixth, the Crushers (3-7) trailed just 1-0. Starting pitcher Matt Rein was spinning a gem and the team had a chance to break its three-game losing streak. From the sixth inning on, they were routed by the Freedom (6-4) by a score of 7-2. Rein was charged with the loss and fell to 1-1 on the season. Freedom starterBrent Choban got the win, pitching six and a third innings while giving up just two runs on seven hits.
With the Crushers trailing 2-0 in the seventh inning, Rein came out to the mound and promptly allowed a single, another home run, a double, and one last single, making it a 4-0 score before being relieved by right-hander Dale Dickerson.
“[The game] was well pitched by Rein early on,” manager Jeff Isom said. “It was a combination [of things that caused him to struggle.] I think it’s a mental thing, like ‘if I make a mistake I’m gonna get hurt right here.’”
Dickerson wasn’t much better, giving up two runs on just one hit, an infield single, by nature of two walks and two hit batters. After finishing an inning and a third, he was taken out in favor of Doug Shields, who pitched two-thirds innings of scoreless relief. Matt Smith came on to pitch the ninth and allowed the final run of the game on a solo home run from defensive replacement Pablo Bermudez.
The Crushers finally put two runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the seventh when Emmanuel Quilles scored on a Juan Sanchez single and JC Figueroa came home on Russ Moldenhauer’s bases-loaded infield single, but the runs allowed by Dickerson and Smith in the eighth and ninth effectively ended any momentum the team may have managed.
“We got those two runs and came back and gave up three right after that. That’s something we’ve talked about with the pitchers. You get runs, you gotta put up a zero and get back in the dugout. [We] couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Isom said.
Outside of the two runs in the seventh, the Crushers offense failed to drive runs home while they were still in the ball game. The Crushers had a runner in scoring position in the first, third, and fourth innings but continued to struggle hit with men on base. Coming into the game, they were hitting just .208 with runners in scoring position.
“If we could find a way to scratch a run or two early, I think [Rein] settles in and doesn’t put the pressure on himself,” Isom said. “I think it’s a mental thing. It’s easier for a pitcher to settle in and be relaxed if we can get those runs.”
“Absolutely, I do,” Isom said when asked if he thought the offense was pressing. “Look at the situation we got late in the game. We put up two runs and had the bases loaded with Davis, your middle of the order guys coming up. We had them on the ropes and Davis was the go ahead run at the plate. You see his at bat in that situation he’s trying to do a little bit too much.
“Instead of just taking the single, he’s trying to hit the four-run home run right there. We just have to take what’s given to us. There’s no question these guys are trying and trying to do their best, almost trying too hard. It’s just a matter of guys relaxing and understanding that it’s not going to be one guy carrying this team, it’s going to be all nine.”
Fortunately, there weren’t many witnesses to the night’s struggles. A record-low crowd of 789 people were in attendance for the game.
If the Crushers could have capitalized on early opportunities, tonight’s game may have had a different result, but with a 10:30 a.m. game upcoming on Wednesday morning, there’s no time for ifs, ands, or buts before they are right back on the field.
“It’ll be something different. Let’s try it,” Isom said. “Hopefully the bats wake up and they’re ready to go. [I’m going to tell the guys to] get plenty of coffee and go out there and get quality at bats.”
The Crushers will be looking to snap their four-game losing streak with ace Trevor Longfellow on the hill. Longfellow is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts on the season.