AVON — Lake Erie is battling some choppy waters in the early going of this season and those whitecaps may swell into a tsunami of epic proportions if the Crushers don’t figure things out soon.
One day after getting blown out by 11 runs against Frontier League-leading Southern Illinois, the Crushers were handed another one-sided defeat, 7-1, to the 9-13 Traverse City Beach Bums on Monday night in front of 2,536 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
The loss was the Crushers’ fifth straight — their longest losing streak this year — and their eighth in their last nine games. The Beach Bums snapped a two-game losing streak with the win.
The Crushers (7-15) also fell to 2-10 in June, although it may be too early to call it a June Swoon.
“Apparently, I’ve got to start beating them,” Crushers manager John Massarelli joked. “Before the game, (we’ve got to) get their bats woken up with a little corporal punishment and a swift kick in the behind.
“You’ve just got to work hard and battle through it. It can snowball in the other direction real fast, and we can get on fire. It just takes one guy to get it going, and it catches like a wave, and we can reel off 10 in a row. We’ve got the club to do it. We’ve just got to find the way to push the right buttons (and) try to get them going.”
The Crushers had just cut the Bums’ lead to two in the bottom of the seventh inning when the wheels came off in the top of the eighth with arguably the team’s best pitcher — Ruben Flores — on the mound.
Flores, who had allowed just four hits and one earned run in 11 innings this season, allowed four earned runs on four hits in the top of the eighth to give Traverse City a six-run lead.
Right fielder Patrick Norris lost a fly ball in the lights, giving J.T. Hall a leadoff triple to open the eighth. Things snowballed from there.
Flores gave up an RBI single to Chase Burch, but came back with two quick outs. However, former Notre Dame quarterback Evan Sharpley blasted the first pitch he saw over the wall in right-center for a two-run home run, opening the floodgates.
“You lose a ball in the lights and sometimes that mentally gives you a setback,” Massarelli said. “Whether that caused (Flores) to lose focus, I don’t know. I haven’t asked him or talked to him about it. He was behind in the count a little bit more than he has been the last couple of nights. I don’t know (what the problem was).”
Starter Josh Roberts (2-3) struggled in the second inning, but gave the Crushers a quality start for the most part. He ended his stint by retiring 14 Beach Bums in a row from the third through the seventh inning and hadn’t allowed a hit since the second.
Throw out the second, in which the Beach Bums sent all nine hitters to the plate and scored three runs on five hits, and Roberts only allowed one hit.
“He did his job,” Massarelli said. “He got us into the seventh inning of a 3-1 game, so that was a good start. He battled through that second inning and settled down. He pitched real well.”
Offensively, the Crushers had trouble getting anything going against Bryan Banes (2-0) and two relievers. They had just three hits – two of which from rookie second baseman Zac Messer — and no runs through the first six innings.
The Crushers were hitting .230 over their previous five games and .241 over their previous 10.
“Their resumes say they should hit,” Massarelli said. “There are guys in our lineup that have hit 15 and 20 home runs in affiliated baseball at higher levels than this. When a whole team’s doing it, you just need one guy to step up one night and get it going.”
Kellen Kulbacki led off the seventh with a ground-rule double and took third on Jason Taylor’s fly out to right. He scored on Joel Collins’ groundout to short for the Crushers’ first run.
Messer followed with a walk and rookie Adam Gliebe hit a single up the middle, putting the potential game-leading run at the plate in Norris. But Norris grounded weakly to short to force Gliebe and end the inning.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.