TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – It couldn’t have looked more dreary to the Lake Erie Crushers than it did Friday.
Sunday, despite rains that postponed the start of the biggest game of their season, the Crushers saw nothing but sunshine.
That’s right, the Crushers somehow pulled off the improbable, winning their final two must-win games of the season over the Traverse City Beach Bums to grab a spot in the Frontier League playoffs.
The Crushers grabbed that playoff spot with a 3-1 win in 10 innings Sunday, finishing the season a half-game ahead of the Beach Bums in the East Division standings. A loss would have ended the Crushers’ season.
Instead, they’ll open a best-of-five series with the Joliet Slammers on Wednesday in Illinois. Game 2 is Thursday at Joliet. The Crushers return home for games Saturday and Sunday, if needed. If there is a Game 5, it will be Monday, Sept. 12, in Joliet.
The Crushers faced an uphill battle after dropping Friday’s game 9-3 to fall
1 1⁄2 games behind the Bums with just two to go. But they came through Saturday with a 4-3 win, then worked their magic again Sunday.
Josh Roberts threw seven innings of shutout ball. However, the Crushers’ offense couldn’t get untracked either. Finally, in the seventh, Jason Taylor led off with a double to left-center and scored on Kellen Kulbacki’s single.
The lead didn’t last long. In the bottom of the eighth, Jeff Flagg greeted reliever Travis Risser with a game-tying solo home run.
Chris Allen pitched a perfect ninth, setting the stage for the offense to strike again. It did in the 10th as pinch-hitter Robby Kuzdale singled off Beach Bums closer Scott Mueller’s leg and Patrick Norris doubled to put runners on second and third.
After an intentional walk to Kulbacki, catcher Joel Collins deposited the first pitch he saw into right field to score both runners and make it 3-1.
Crushers closer Ruben Flores finished things for his 21st save.
(Best of five series)
• WEDNESDAY: Lake Erie at Joliet, 7:05 p.m.
• THURSDAY: Lake Erie at Joliet, 7:05 p.m.
• SATURDAY: Joliet at Lake Erie, 7:05 p.m.
• SUNDAY: Joliet at Lake Erie (if necessary), 5:05 p.m.
• MONDAY, SEPT. 12: Lake Erie at Joliet (if necessary), TBD
• TICKET OFFICE: Playoff tickets go on sale today at the Crushers box office. Or call 934-3636 or go to www.lakeeriecrushers.com.