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Crushers rebound to take series finale, win series

Crushers rebound to take series finale, win series
July 22, 2013
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Lake Erie (28-26) rebounded from Saturday's no hit loss with late 2-1 victory over the Grizzles on Sunday.

Coming off of the team's worst loss of the season, the Crushers regrouped on the mound and at the plate to take the series from Gateway. Lake Erie collected its first hit in two days in a big third inning of work for the team on a Seth Granger single that scored David Roney.

For starter Alex Kaminsky, a one run lead would hold true for him until the sixth inning when Gateway got on the board on an RBI double by Chris McClendon. On the night, Kaminsky pitched a gem going 6.2 innings, giving up one run on three hits and two walks while striking out three.

Like he has all season, Jordan Wellander came on in the seventh and controlled the game. Keeping the Grizzles off the scoreboard for 1.1 innings, he gave the Crushers bats time to get back the lead.

After Wellander shut down Gateway in the bottom of the eighth, the Lake Erie offense complimented his performance with a lead in the top of the ninth.

Recently acquired center fielder Craig Hertler led off the ninth with a double to make things sway in the Crushers' favor as well as cause a pitching change.

Gateway called on reliever Zac Treece who came on and got a quick out on Daniel Bowman, then walked Anderson Hidalgo. With two on for veteran Andrew Davis, the slugger did not disappoint as he lifted a single to right field that scored Hertler from second.

Lake Erie would leave before more damage could be done as the Crushers would load the bases up and not add another run.

Two nights after a disappointing outing by closer Dale Dickerson, manager Jeff Isom called back upon his closer with a one run lead.

Dickerson came in and gave up a leadoff single, but quickly turned things around getting his next two hitters down before striking out the Grizzlies' Vladimir Frias for the final out of the game.

Lake Erie will return home Monday and play a rare monday game as the Crushers start a big divisional series with Southern Illinois (30-24) at 7 p.m. at All Pro Freight Stadium.

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July 23, 2013 - 10:07 PM EDT
Rockford’s Rucinski mows down Wild Things

by Chris Dugan
Sports Editor

The sniper-like action started early Monday night and emboldened Rockford Aviators starting pitcher Drew Rucinski with confidence.

If he wanted to throw his fastball two inches under the batter’s hands on the inside corner of the plate, then it happened. If Rucinski thought about a tricky off-speed pitch just low and outside, then it was no problem.

And chances were, he was getting a swing and a miss, too.

Rucinski, Rockford’s only representative in last week’s Frontier League All-Star game, threw a five-hit complete game in the Aviators’ 5-1 win over the Wild Things on a soggy night at Consol Energy Park.

Rucinski (4-6), an Ohio State University product who is in his third season with Rockford, allowed only a first-inning run, walked only one batter and added 10 more to his league-leading strikeout total. Washington hitters had 15 swings and misses against Rucinski.

“I was able to locate my fastball and mix in my other pitches when I had to,” Rucinski said. “The strikeouts came with it. I was just trying to fill up the strike zone and let it happen.”

A lanky right-hander, Rucinski retired 15 of 16 Washington hitters at one stretch and nine of the game’s last 10.

Having already surpassed the 100-pitch mark, Rucinski began the ninth inning by giving up a leadoff single to C.J. Beatty. There was, however, never any doubt that Rucinski would remain on the mound to try for a complete game. Aviators manager James Frisbee might have needed a court order or the Jaws of Life to remove his pitcher.

Rucinski retired the next three batters to give Rockford its first three-game winning streak of the season.

“He’s an all-star pitcher. We knew that going in,” said Beatty, who had two of Washington’s hits.

“We beat him early in the year, but it was a low-scoring game. He’s a great pitcher. He knows what kind of team he has. It’s not going to score a bunch of runs for him, so he pitches that way. He tries to strike everyone out.”

That was obvious early in the game as Rucinski had nine of his strikeouts in the first five innings.

“He throws hard, and his changeup is good against lefties,” Beatty said. “He didn’t walk guys. He came right at us.”

Walks are what hurt Washington starter Shawn Blackwell (3-5). He issued five in 6 1/3 innings. Four of the walks came in the fourth inning when Rockford scored the go-ahead run for a 2-1 lead.

The Aviators chased Blackwell in the seventh when Jeff Kremer, a rookie from Duke, had a two-run single. Rockford tacked on an insurance run in the eighth when Greg Van Horn’s sacrifice fly scored Kenny Bryant.

After Rockford took a 1-0 lead, Washington scored its lone run in the bottom of the first inning. Darian Sandford led off with a bunt single and advanced on two stolen bases, his 38th and 39th of the season. Sandford scored on Beatty’s single up the middle.

The Wild Things, however, didn’t have another hit until A.J. Nunziato’s broken-bat double in the sixth.

“(Rucinski) is one of the best pitchers in the league, by far. … He didn’t let off the gas tonight,” Beatty said.

Rucinski has been a hard-luck pitcher for the Aviators, who stumbled out of the gate with a 3-18 record that cost manager Rich Austin his job. Frisbee has turned things around as Rockford has gone 16-17 over its last 33 games.

“We brought guys in here who hustle, play hard and want to win,” Rucinski said. “(Frisbee) has got us going, and we’ve bought into his style.”

While the Aviators are surging, the Wild Things have gone in the opposite direction. After starting 14-8, they have lost 22 of 33 and are a season-low five games under .500.

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