Crushers strike early, beat Freedom 11-7
Lake Erie dominates Florence in morning tilt
Apparently, the Lake Erie Crusher hitters are morning people.
After struggling to hit with men in scoring position for the first 10 games of the season, the Crushers (4-7) finally woke up as they pounded out 11 runs on 19 hits in their 11-7 victory over the Florence Freedom (6-5).
It all started in the first inning when the first five batters in the Crushers lineup consecutively reached based and took a 3-1 lead over the Freedom and starting pitcher Daniel Jensen. Third baseman Andrew Davis tied the game at one with an RBI double which brought home leadoff man Kevin Berard. Right fielder Daniel Bowman, hitting in the cleanup spot, drove in two more with a drive to left-center field that bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double.
Jensen only pitched three and two-thirds innings, getting shelled for eight runs on twelve hits and his first loss of the season.
“There was a lot to like about that offense today,” manager Jeff Isom said. “It was a good way to start the morning. We had conversation, I’m not gonna say it was just because of conversation we had, but one of the common things we’ve been seeing is guys getting themselves out swing at pitches out of the zone. We wanted to make sure they were getting something in the strike zone and putting the bat on the ball.
The Crushers plated three more in the inning. Ricky Lizcano, the designated hitter, knocked in a run with a sac bunt up the first base line. Seth Granger, playing center field in place of Gauntlett Eldemire, hit an RBI bloop-double to left, and shortstop Juan Sanchez hit a sac fly to left field, as the Crushers sent 10 men to the plate before being retired in the bottom of the first.
From there, the Crushers never let up. They added another run in second inning on an RBI single from Ricky Lizcano, whose change of name on the lineup card from Ricardo to Ricky seems to have helped him at the plate as he was previously hitting just .176 on the season and did not have a hit with runners in scoring position.
“I don’t know anything about that,” Isom said. “If Ricky is gonna hit that way stick with it. The heck with Ricardo.”
First baseman Russ Moldenhauer hit a solo home run to the American flag in right-center field in the fourth inning, his first of the season, for the team’s eighth run. The Crushers then went scoreless for two innings, before left fielder Kevin Berard drove in two in the bottom of the seventh with a slicing single to right.
Andrew Davis ended the hit parade with a solo home run to deep, straight-away center field. It was his second of the season.
“He got a pitch up he could handle. He’s a guy that if you’re gonna make a mistake he’s gonna make you pay,” Isom said.
The offensive outburst had to provide comfort to starting pitcher Trevor Longfellow, who didn’t have his best stuff for the 10:35 a.m. start but fought his way through six and third innings giving up just four runs on three hits. He walked five and hit a batter, but the offense helped him get his second win on the season, bumping his record to 2-1.
“He found a way to compete,” Isom said. “It wasn’t pretty by any mean but he got the job done. We talked about Rein’s outing yesterday, he didn’t get any run support and he felt the pressure. It’s a lot easier to pitch when you’ve got a lead.”
He wasn’t helped by his defense in the top of the first inning. After he hit the Freedom leadoff man and shortstop Junior Arrojo reached on a hit-by-pitch and made his way to third base, he scored on an Andrew Davis throwing error which would have been the second out of the inning.
The Freedom continued to take advantage of the opportunities they were given but managed just the three runs off of Longfellow. The scored five more times in the last three frames against the Crushers bullpen to make the score more respectable, as the relief corps continues to struggle to put games away.
“That’s concerning to me. We have to come in and throw strikes. I keep telling those guys, the only way you’re gonna get beat is if you start walking guys,” Isom said. “We just have to do a better job.”
The Crushers will try to take the rubber match against the Freedom on Thursday night, and Isom is hopeful that the offense will continue to have success.
“You don’t expect to get 19 hits a game, but you can go out there with the same approach daily. As long as we’re swinging at strikes and have a good, solid approach at the plate, I’ll be a happy manager.”
Alex Kaminsky (0-1, 8.10 ERA) will be on the hill for the 7:05 p.m. start.