Middendorf dominates ThunderBolts in 5-1 win
Fireworks from Davis, Moldenpower give Lake Erie sweep
On this July fourth, the Windy City ThunderBolts would like to declare their independence from Avon, Oh.
The Crushers beat the Bolts 5-1, clinching the series sweep behind a third straight brilliant performance from the starting pitching. Dave Middendorf pitched eight innings, giving up just one run on four hits, striking out three. He earned the win to improve to 6-3 on the season. The Crushers are now 20-21.
"I think it was my fastball that I commanded pretty well, and the other pitches seemed to be working as well. It was just one of those days were everything was working: changeup, slider. I could have gone out there for the ninth, but, hey, a win’s a win,” Middendorf said.
The run was just the first and only allowed by the Crushers pitching staff in the three-game series. It came in the eighth inning after a leadoff double came around to score on a groundout.
“I feel like, I didn’t get that shutout I was letting those guys down,” Middendorf said with a laugh.
Despite expressing disappointment in being the only Crusher pitcher to allow a run in the series, Middendorf sees how much this pitching staff is starting to gel.
“All the pitchers are starting to come together, really working together, rooting each other on,” he said. “Middle of the year we’re all starting to peak. I knew once we got going we’d get on a winning streak here, and I think we’re gonna surprise some people.”
Manager Jeff Isom attributed the success of the pitching to his starters being able to throw strikes early in the count and not walk opposing batters.
“I think we only walked two or three guys this whole series,” he said. “When you have pitchers doing that, you’re gonna give yourself a good opportunity.”
In support of their starter, the Crushers offense gave the fans a preview of the fireworks show that would follow the game. They scored four runs in the inning off of two two-run home runs. After a one-out single from Max Casper, Andrew Davis sent a pitch to the American flag in right-center field to give the Crushers a 2-0 lead. Later in the inning, Anderson Hidalgo hustled out an infield single. Then Russ Moldenpower made his Fourth of July cameo, showing tremendous opposite field power and depositing the ball over the left field wall to push the lead to 4-0.
“I feed off it. It’s awesome,” Middendorf said of the run support. “It makes me more comfortable out there. It makes me feel like I can go out there and let loose on a few fastballs.”
“Obviously we know what Davis is capable of doing,” Isom said. “Moldenhauer, he’s struggled as of recently, but he had a pretty good night tonight swinging the bat, and it was nice to see him go opposite field.
“Tonight was a case where the wind was blowing out, and the guys squared balls up, and they got out of here.”
Emmanuel Quiles added one more run in the fifth, when he singled home Daniel Bowman, who led off the inning with a double. All that run would do was ensure that Dale Dickerson would not be coming into a save situation later in the game.
Dickerson came into the ninth inning with a four-run cushion, so he did not earn the save, but he did finish off the sweep of the Bolts by securing the last three outs, surrendering just one hit.
After the game, a sold-out crowd of 4,514 enjoyed a ten-minute fireworks show set to American classics such as Ray Charles’ God Bless America. Manager Jeff Isom said he wanted his guys to give them a pre-fireworks show they would appreciate just as much.
“The first thing I told the guys as they were taking the field is “go put on a show. Give them a reason to come back.’ Middendorf did that. We got a couple home runs there. The fans got their money’s worth.”
And that’s a good thing, because it is much more fun to play in front of a sell-out crowd.
“One thing that we do as a staff is we check the presale. We want to know what we’ve got going on. It was nice to see,” Isom said.
The Crushers continue to inch their way back to the .500 mark, and now sit just one game back as they will welcome the Rockford Aviators to All Pro Freight Stadium for a three-game set. Matt Smith will be on the mound to start the series looking to improve on his 2-2 record and 5.56 ERA.