Lizcano's birthday bash leads Crushers to 8-4 win
Four-run fifth brings Lake Erie out of last place
Ricardo Lizcano delivered a special birthday present to his mother today, as his home run to lead off the fifth started a four-run rally that gave the Crushers the lead for good. It was his first home run of the year.
“I hope so,” Lizcano said when asked if he thought his mom was happy with the gift. “I’m pretty sure she did. That was a pretty cool moment. I don’t think I’ve ever done that.
“It definitely put some weight off my shoulders. I’ve been struggling a little bit at the plate ever since spring training, so to actually feel comfortable at the plate and drive the ball like that definitely puts confidence in myself.”
Trailing 3-2 in the fifth, Lizcano’s solo home run tied the game and Andrew Davis’ three run shot to left gave the Crushers (10-13) the lead in a game they would go on to win 8-4 over Evansville (15-7). Starter Dave Middendorf rebounded from a tough second inning to pitch a quality start and earn the win, going seven innings and giving up three runs on seven hits to go along with five strikeouts. He is now 3-1 on the year. Evansville starter Matt Crim was charged with loss, pitching just four and two-thirds innings, giving up six runs on eight hits, and falling to 1-2 on the season.
“To [Dave’s] credit, he went back out there, and we had a little talk between the second and the third inning, and he went right after guys,” manager Jeff Isom said. “It was good to see him make an adjustment in game. That was the most impressive thing I saw tonight. We needed it in the worst way.”
The Crushers originally took the lead in the bottom of the first thanks to a two-run home run from Daniel Bowman, who swapped places in the lineup with Andrew Davis. Bowman finished the game with four RBI.
“We swung the bats pretty well. We swung the bats well last night; we just didn’t have the big hits,” Bowman said.
“Whenever you can jump on top of a team and get a lead that’s huge for the pitcher, for us on defense, for us going forward at the plate.”
The early lead evaporated quickly, however, as Middendorf surrendered three in the top of the second on a home run from Otters’ catcher John Nester and a double from first baseman Nick Schwaner. He also had two walks in the inning.
“It was like ‘oh boy, here we go’,” Isom said about that second inning. “I’m thinking ‘our bullpen is a little bit thin right now.’ To Middendorf’s credit, he ended up locking himself back in.”
Middendorf only allowed three hits the rest of the way before being relieved in the eighth by Jordan Wellander. Wellander, who has developed into a consistent arm in the back end of the bullpen, didn’t have it tonight as he loaded the bases and walked in a run before Isom took him out of the game. Brian Duffy entered and retired the final hitter of the inning on a groundout to second.
“Duffy told me the other day ‘I love those pressure situations,'” Isom said. “With the tying run at the plate I figured, here’s one for him again. Thank goodness he made a quality pitch and got that comebacker.
“I’ve talked before about guys in the bullpen climbing the ladder and getting to the top so I can start trusting them and using them in key situations. He’s kind of worked his way from the bottom. It’s good to have. We need a few more of those guys right now.”
Until Bowman’s two-run double in the sixth, all of the Crushers runs came via the long ball tonight and it was a night where the offense was able to capitalize on their ten hits, the antithesis to what has been their Achilles' heel all season long. The Crushers are second in the league in batting average,.278 entering Wednesday night’s game, but have struggled to take advantage of all those hits. That’s what cost them in their 9-2 loss on Tuesday night, a game in which they out hit Evansville 13-12.
“They had pitches to hit tonight and they didn’t foul them off. They took advantage. Especially Bowman tonight,” Isom said. “It’s good to see these guys starting to hit the pitches that I should be. I think the timing is getting a little bit better.
This was the first game of the season in which the Crushers hit at least three home runs. It’s significant that this feat was accomplished on their home turf, as All-Pro Freight stadium is considered one of the Frontier League’s more pitcher-friendly parks.
“Everyone wants to see that long ball and tonight was one of those nights,” Isom said.
With the win, the Crushers climbed out of the cellar in the East Division. They are now a half-game up on the Frontier Greys.
The victory also gives the Crushers 10 wins in 23 games, the quickest they have reached that mark since 2010. It took them 23 games that season as well.
The Crushers will try to win the series against the division-leading Otters on Thursday night behind Matt Smith. The converted closer will be making his third start of the year as he looks to build on his 2-0 record.