Crushers take advantage of errors, win 5-0
Middendorf leads shutout of WildThings
The way the wind was blowing out of All Pro Freight Stadium before the game, the expectation was that a lot of balls would be sailing off the bat.
Instead, they were sailing out of the hand of WildThings third baseman Chris Costantino. Costantino air mailed two throws to first base, although he was lucky enough to escape with just one error. The error came on his second attempt, as he nearly sent a routine groundball off the bat of Juan Sanchez into the seats along the first base line. The two-base error brought home the first run of a circus-like third inning. The Crushers (35-30) added two more runs and went on to shutout the WildThings (30-35) 5-0.
The Crushers scored three runs in a third inning that saw a plague of errors upon the WildThings. In addition to Costantino's error, catcher Mario Mercedes dropped an easy popup, and second baseman Shain Stoner misplayed a ground ball off the bat of Moldenhauer. The two errors put the first two hitters of the inning on base for the Crushers. After a fly out, Kevin Berard reached on a fielder's choice, the first poor throw from Costantino, setting the stage for the two-base error. Costantino was be benched for the remainder of the contest after the inning.
Emmanuel Quiles finally took advantage of the three extra outs the Crushers were given when he singled to center for the first hit of the inning. His single brought home Berard and Sanchez, pushing the lead to 5-0.
"We'll take runs however we can get them. We don't care," manager Jeff Isom said. "But the big hit in that inning was [Quiles' single]. That really broke the game open."
The five runs were more than enough for starter Dave Middendorf (9-5, 2.53), who threw his second-straight complete game shutout. Middendorf only allowed four hits, equal to the number of WildThing errors. He also struck out four batters. His ninth win is good for third best in the Frontier League.
"All season long he's been throwing the ball very well, and then today he came out right away, I was like 'wow, okay, he's got some good stuff,'" Isom said. "We hope that this can continue. He's on a pretty good roll right now. When you get a pitcher like that you throw him back out there and see what he can do."
"Two in a row, it's awesome," Middendorf said. "It's just another game where I knew I had to establish the inside fastball. I knew if I did that and took one pitch at a time I would have a pretty good day. Tonight I was feeling real good, all three pitches were working, and it worked out well."
The three pitches Middendorf referred to were his two-seam fastball, slider, and change-up. The two things that allowed Middendorf to be so successful were establishing his change-up and throwing strike one to 22 of 31 batters.
"That's basically what we preach," Middendorf said. "If you get a first pitch strike, then you've got room to mess around the rest of the count. Once you get 0-1 with a guy then they're gonna get defensive and slap at the ball."
In comparison to Middendorf, WildThings starter Shawn Blackwell (3-6, 4.67) appeared to pitch poorly, but the four WildThing errors did nothing to help his cause. Of the five runs he allowed, only two were earned.
The two earned runs came in the first inning for the Crushers. Craig Hertler led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sac hit from Daniel Bowman. Andrew Davis followed with an RBI double, and Russ Moldenhauer did exactly the same for the second run of the inning. The back-to-back doubles came from the two middle-of-the-order hitters who are heating up at the right time.
"We need to get production out of the middle of that lineup, otherwise you're gonna have a lot of one run games like we've been having," Isom said. "We've built this team with pitching and defense, but we've got to have production from Moldenhauer, Davis, Bowman, Hidalgo."
The four players Isom named all were bumped up a spot in the lineup, as Seth Granger, the regular number two hitter who was originally slated to start, was a late scratch due to back tightness that occurred during batting practice. Isom said he might miss Friday's game as well, but said the tightness is just some of the typical bumps and bruises that guys acquire throughout the season.
The Crushers will by vying for the third-straight win and a series sweep of the WildThings on Friday on Browns vs. Steelers night. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam will be in attendance and will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.Adam Beach will be on the mound, trying to improve on his 1-1 record.