AVON – For the third consecutive game, the Crushers got a phenomenal pitching effort from their starter.
However, one hit from Rockford proved to be one hit too many Sunday.
Thomas Campbell (4-3) took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but an RBI ground-rule double by Michael Hur spoiled that … and the game for the Crushers.
The hit was the only one the RiverHawks got, but it led to a 2-0 victory over Lake Erie in front of 2,314 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
The Crushers (47-42), meanwhile, were held to just three hits by Dante Scarpetta (7-6), failing to advance a runner past second base.
Lake Erie’s win streak was snapped at four. More bad news for the Crushers was that Traverse City put the finishing touches on a sweep of Windy City with a 3-1 win and leap-frogged them for second place with six games to go in the season.
“When you’re neck-and-neck in a playoff chase, every loss is going to be tough,” Crushers manager John Massarelli said. “Every win’s going to be great. That’s what makes pennant-race baseball fun.
“I’m excited. It’s gonna be a fun week. There’s six games left and we’re a half-game back. We’re right in it and we still control our own destiny. We’ve just got to focus on Washington.”
The win was Rockford’s (34-56) first at All Pro Freight Stadium and snapped a six-game losing streak. The loss, on the other hand, was Campbell’s first as a Crusher since joining the team at the All-Star break from Southern Illinois. He struck out four, walked three and allowed two earned runs in six innings.
“He pitched well,” Massarelli said. “The two walks cost him. He was in a nice pitchers’ duel there, but walks bit him.
“Starting pitching like this gives you a chance every night. Those types of outings will win you a championship. If we’re going to come back and make the playoffs and win a championship, that’s what you have to have. If you don’t have that every night, than it’s really a struggle.”
Campbell, who had only allowed one walk and was one over the minimum through six innings, began the seventh by issuing back-to-back walks to Evan Button and Jake Eigsti.
On an 0-2 pitch, Hur drilled the ball just past the outstretched reach of center fielder Patrick Norris that hit the warning track and bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double, giving Rockford a 1-0 lead. That ended Campbell’s day.
The run also snapped a 30-inning scoreless streak from Crushers pitchers, and snapped what had been a 29-inning scoreless streak for the Rockford offense.
Reliever Chris Allen allowed a groundout to second to Matt Greener on his first pitch that scored Eigsti with the second run of the inning and advanced Hur to third. Allen struck out Luis Parache looking and coaxed a groundout to short by Jeremy Richter to end the threat.
Allen, Travis Risser and Ruben Flores combined on three hitless, scoreless innings of relief to keep the Crushers in the game. However, the offense couldn’t get anything going.
“When the wind’s blowing in off Lake Erie and you can’t see anything at the plate in a day game, it’s a pitcher’s paradise,” Massarelli said. “I think both sides feasted off of it, and they took advantage of the walks with the one hit through the wind. That’s how they won, and that’s what you have to do”
Chris Luick, batting .211, had two of the Crushers’ three hits. Robby Kuzdale had the other.
The Crushers’ best chance to score came in the third. Joel Collins led off by reaching on an error, and he took second on Luick’s hit – which was the first in the game for either team.
Zac Messer attempted a sacrifice bunt, but the bunt went toward third base, where Scarpetta scooped it up and threw out Collins for the first out.
Scarpetta came back to strike out both Jereme Milons and Kuzdale to end the inning still tied 0-0.
In the sixth, Kuzdale had a two-out infield single and took second on a throwing error from Button. However, Andrew Davis struck out looking on three pitches to keep things scoreless.
Jason Taylor led off the seventh with a long, high drive that looked to be a home run. However, it got caught up in the stiff breeze and came down for a long out.
The Crushers, following a day off today, have three games remaining at home against Washington before their big season finale at Traverse City beginning Friday.
“We know Traverse City’s going to be a big series,” Massarelli said. “We just need to focus on Washington and one game at a time and try to get win each night.”
Infielder Jodam Rivera was diagnosed with a broken finger and has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
“It’s a tough loss, that’s for sure,” Massarelli said.
Due to Frontier League rules, teams cannot add an experienced player at this point of the season, so the Crushers will not be able to fill Rivera’s spot.
• Davis went hitless Sunday, but he narrowed the gap on Rockford’s Eigsti in the race for the batting title to just one percentage point.
Eigsti leads Davis, .338-.337, with six games left to play.
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• WHO: Washington Wild Things at Lake Erie Crushers
• WHEN: Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
• WHERE: All Pro Freight Stadium, Avon