AVON – The Crushers kicked off what turned out to be a 1-5 road trip with three consecutive one-run losses to the Southern Illinois Miners.
Back at All Pro Freight Stadium for the first time in a week, Lake Erie wound up on the losing end of yet another one-run decision to the Miners on Friday night.
Kellen Kulbacki’s solo home run in the bottom of the ninth gave the Crushers a little life, but they couldn’t finish the job and dropped a 2-1 loss to Southern Illinois in front of 2,345 fans.
The Crushers (7-12) have lost five of their last seven games, and four of those five losses were by one run.
Crushers manager John Massarelli is very encouraged by what he’s seen from his team during the stretch.
“Obviously, we’ve got to start winning some of these one-run games to get back on track,” he said. “We’re starting to see more consistent pitching and defense, which is good. That’s what you need to be a good ballclub. You’ve just got to get the hits when you need them.”
Trailing 2-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Andrew Davis led off with a flyout to center. Kulbacki, a former first-round draft choice by the San Diego Padres, drilled an 0-1 pitch from closer Erik Draxton (six saves) into the kid’s play area beyond the right field wall for his first homer of the season.
Both Nick Mahin and Jason Taylor took Draxton deep in the count, with Taylor fouling off four full-count pitches. However, both wound up grounding out to third base to end the game.
“Kellen’s one of those guys where you know it’s just a matter of time before he does something like he did tonight,” Massarelli said. “Our offense should heat up as he does, and as the weather gets better and better, we’ll get it going.”
Both Scott Houin and newcomer Felix Martinez had singles against Miners starter Ryan Zink (2-0). Both were gunned down trying to steal second.
The Crushers made some noise in the bottom of the eighth when Joel Collins drew a leadoff walk and Houin followed with a two-out double to put runners on second and third. Martinez, however, struck out to end the threat.
“We hit .220 as a team last year and still finished four games over .500,” Massarelli said. “We’re not going to hit .220 as a team this year. This is a good team offensively. We’re going to hit. If we continue to pitch and play good (defense), we’re going to turn this around.”
The Crushers got a solid start Andrew Weeks (2-2), who gave up two runs on six hits through 61⁄3 innings, struck out four and walked none.
Newcomer Chris Allen tossed 12⁄3 scoreless innings in his Crushers debut, and closer Ruben Flores added a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts to keep Lake Erie in the game.
The team signed Allen as a free agent and acquired Martinez from the Florence Freedom for future considerations. The Crushers released Jeff Cinadr, their top pitcher in 2010.
“He was our best pitcher last year, so (releasing him) was tough,” Crushers vice president of business operations Dan Helm said.
Cinadr went 0-1 with a 12.27 ERA in seven appearances.
Helm felt confident that starting pitcher Eric Gonzalez-Diaz, currently on the suspended list due to visa issues, would be joining the team at some point this season.
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Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.