In front of the third-largest crowd in Lake Erie history – 4,781 fans – the Otters got an early jump on the festivities.
With back-to-back-to-back home runs to left-center field leading to a seven-run ninth inning off reliever J.J. Pacella, the Otters (15-27) sealed a 12-4 Frontier League victory.
Lake Erie is 23-19 heading into road trips to Florence and Evansville before the four-day All-Star break.
“They hit Pacella,” said Crushers manager John Massarelli. “It was baseball. It just happens.
“It happens in the big leagues every night and happens in the Frontier League every night. A guy goes out there and just gives it up one inning. You’ve got arguably the most dominant pitcher in the league in the month of June and he goes out there and gets hit.”
Pacella was brought in to replace Alberto Rolon and recorded the last out of the eighth inning, but was in trouble from the outset in the ninth.
Evansville center fielder Estee Harris led off with a double to left. Harris looked like he hit a simple fly to Travis Vetters, but Vetters overran the ball and allowed it to roll to the fence. A walk to Gregory Alexander put runners on first and second.
Derek Wiley followed with an RBI double to center that brought in two runs. The relay from Dom Duggan and Drew Saylor to Julio Rivera was in time, but the ball popped out of Rivera’s glove as he tagged Alexander.
Next up was Brandon Cohen, who hit a two-run home run to left-center. Jake Rogers and Vinnie Scarduzio continued the rally with solo homers to the same spot in left-center.
“It’s about time. We were on an eight-game losing streak and were striking out at a record pace,” said Otters manager Wayne Krenchicki. “It’s about time we finally squared some balls up. Hitting is contagious. When one guy starts getting going, a few guys start getting going and that’s exactly what happened.”
Crushers starting pitcher Josh Roberts, who entered the game with a 4-0 record and 1.83 earned run average in his previous eight starts, was touched up for four runs in five innings.
In the top of the second, Evansville third baseman Cody Ross joined an exclusive club when he took a 2-2 pitch from Roberts over the wall in left-center for a two-run home run. With his two-run blast, Ross became the first player this season to hit a home run off Roberts.
Roberts had gone 55 2/3 innings without allowing a home run.
“He could’ve gone back out,” said Massarelli. “It was probably because he went nine innings last time, the first time he’d ever done nine innings. Most times, pitchers will scuffle because of the extra pitches and work from the previous start.
“He competed and kept us in the game, which is what you want out of your big horse and handed the ball off in a 4-4 game. He did his job tonight. We scored enough runs to win the ballgame. Four should win it in this ballpark about every night.”