Story by Andy Barch
Photos by Larry Bennet
The Lake Erie Crushers left 13 runners on base in their first half finale against Southern Illinois at All Pro Freight Stadium on Sunday evening as they dropped the rubber match to the Miners, 5-4.
The loss for the Crushers marks the first time they’ve lost a series since dropping two out of three to Florence back on June 19. The victory for the Miners, who remained three games out of first place at 29-19, was their fifth in their last six games.
Lake Erie, now 25-23, left the bases loaded twice and - for the second night in a row - saw the game end with the potential tying run at third.
After retiring J.C. Figueroa to start the ninth inning, the Miners’ Albert Ayala issued four free passes. He walked Daniel Bowman with the bases full to score Jason Taylor, moving the tying run to third, and potential game winning run to second. But Ayala was replaced by Anthony Collazo who struck out Brian Erie to end the game.
Southern Illinois struck first in the top of the fifth, after Paul Fagan retired the first 12 batters he faced in the contest. Carlos Mendez ended that string with a double to start the fifth inning. Mendez made his way to third after Ken Gregory reached on Figueroa’s error, and scored on Will Block’s base hit.
The Crushers then plated a trio of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 3-1 lead. The bottom of the order produced yet again for the Crushers. Andrew Davis started the inning with a base hit, and made his way to second on Bowman’s single. Erie and Brandon Decker then stroked back-to-back RBI singles to give the Crushers a 2-1 lead, and Erie scored the final run of the inning on a wild pitch.
The Crushers maintained that 3-1 lead until the Miners blew up for four in the eighth to take the lead for good.
Fagan hit Sean Barch with a pitch to start the inning, and was pulled after allowing a single to Cannon Lester. Jake Kaase drove in the first run of the inning on a sacrifice fly, before Chad Maddox doubled in the next two runs to give the Miners a 4-3 lead. Maddox came home moments later on Gregory’s base hit to cap the inning.
Ryan Quigley (1-2) delivered 1.2 innings of scoreless relief, and allowed just a hit while fanning two to secure the victory. Travis Risser (2-2) allowed two inherited runs to score in the eighth, and two of his own in his only inning of action and suffered the loss. Collazo was credited with his first save of the season.
Erie, Davis and Decker paced the Crushers with two hits apiece, while Taylor reached twice on a pair of free passes. He has now reached safely in 32 consecutive games.
Win streak ended Saturday night
The Crushers saw their seven game home winning streak come to an end on Saturday night, as their offense was silenced in a 2-1 loss to Southern Illinois.
The loss for Lake Erie was its first at home since June 19, and brought their five game winning streak to an end, while the victory for the Miners was their fourth in their last five games.
Southern Illinois starting pitcher David Harden (6-1) stole the show and stifled the Crushers’ offense. Harden went the distance and held the Crushers to just a run on four hits.
Down 2-0, the Crushers plated their lone run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Adrian Ortiz reached on a one-out base hit, and scored on Robby Kuzdale’s triple down the right field line. The relay throw to the plate got by the catcher, Sean Coughlin, allowing a small opening for Kuzdale at third. Kuzdale broke for the plate, but was thrown out.
The game ended with the tying run 90-feet away. Taylor reached on an infield single, and stole second base. He made his way to third on Russ Moldenhauer’s fly-out to center, but Taylor was left stranded after Davis grounded out to end the game.
Josh Rickards (2-2) suffered the loss, after allowing an unearned run on two hits, while fanning two, and distributing three free passes.
Kuzdale paced the Crushers offensively, going 2-for-4 in the contest, giving him six hits on the home stand. Taylor reached on a walk and a single, bringing his on base streak to 31 games. Figueroa went 0-for-3, and saw his 14 game on base streak come to an end.
Series opens with a win
The final four batters in the Lake Erie batting order belted 11 of the team’s 14 hits at All Pro Freight Stadium on Friday evening as the Crushers won their seventh home game in a row, 5-2.
Batters 6-through-9 in the Lake Erie batting order - Bowman, Erie, Figueroa and Decker - went 11-for-15 combined, reached 12 times in 16 plate appearances and were responsible for all five of Lake Erie’s runs.
Alex Loftin allowed just a pair of runs on four hits while fanning five over six strong innings to move to 3-0 on the season. Travis Risser tossed a pair of scoreless innings of relief to preserve the lead, before Kountis (10) snagged his second save in as many nights. Brian Fowler (3-4) allowed three runs on 10 hits over six innings and took the loss.
Erie paced the Crushers with a 4-for-4 performance. Bowman hit safely three times, going 3-for-3 with a trio of runs scored, while Figueroa, Decker and Kuzdale all hit safely twice. Taylor reached twice and extended his on base streak to 30 games in the process.
The Crushers are off for the next four days for the Frontier League All-Star break, but will return to action on Friday, July 13. They will begin a three game series against the River City Rascals at T.R. Hughes Ballpark. The first pitch is scheduled for 8:05 p.m.
East Division Standings
1.Traverse City 32-16 (.667); 2. Southern Illinois 29-19 (.604, 4 GB); 3. Florence 27-21 (.563, 5 GB); 4. Lake Erie 25-23 (.521, 7 GB); 5. Evansville 21-27 (.438, 11 GB); 6. London 19-29 (.396, 13 GB); 7. Washington (Pa.) 18-29 (.383, 13.5 GB)