AVON — It might feel like forever since the Lake Erie Crushers won a home game, but actually it’s only been 10 days. Still, home wins have been a rare commodity.
Sometimes, though, all it takes is just one to start some positive momentum.
The Crushers got one Monday, obliterating Washington pitching to the tune of nine runs on 14 hits to snap a five-game home losing skid with a 9-4 victory in front of 1,806 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
The Crushers improved to 8-14 (2-11 at home), while the Wild Things (9-12) lost for the third time in four games.
The relief in the Crushers clubhouse and the manager’s office was everywhere.
More photos below.
“I like winning,” Crushers manager John Massarelli said. “Winning’s fun. Winning’s good. That’s how you draw it up offensively, with us bunching the hits together. I expect us to be an offensive team, just based on the resumes of our guys.
These guys have put up a lot of good numbers in leagues higher than this one.
“It was good to see the guys get rolling a little bit. I know they were frustrated, and that builds and builds. With us having so many (early) homestands and not swinging the bat well, losing close games and just not playing well at home, I’m sure it was a burden. This was a win they needed. Hopefully, this will get us going on a roll.”
Kellen Kulbacki, who went 2-for-3 with two runs, hit his second home run in as many days. His second-inning solo blast tied the score at 1 and seemed to kick-start the offense.
“I think, for one, this was the first game this year where we kept going,” Kulbacki said. “We got runs early, we got runs in the middle, we got runs at the end. Everyone was contributing. It was a great team win. Our pitching held up. (Josh) Rickards threw a great game. Our bullpen came in and shut them down.
“We just didn’t really give (Washington) a chance to breathe, except for that one inning where they tied it up. But we battled back with runs right away, and I think that knocked the air right out of them.”
The Crushers took a 4-1 lead after five, but Washington fought back with three runs in the top of the sixth off Rickards and reliever Kelyn Schellenberg to tie the score.
Like Sunday, a local product on the opposing team played a key role in the outcome. Unlike Gateway’s Antone DeJesus, Brookside graduate Steve Grife wasn’t happy about that outcome.
Grife (0-1) came on in relief in the sixth and promptly gave up a leadoff ground-rule double to Kulbacki. Brandon Decker bunted him to third, and Wally Correa drew a walk on four pitches and stole second without a throw.
Brian Erie lifted a fly out to right that was deep enough to score Kulbacki for the tie-breaking run, which ended Grife’s day. Alfonso Yevoli gave up a double by Adrian Ortiz just over the glove of first baseman Michael Bando, scoring Correa to make it a 6-4 lead.
“It feels good to be back pitching in front of a bunch of people cheering for you,” Grife said. “We had a whole section full out there full of family and friends, and it felt good.
“I was definitely hoping for better. It was just one pitch. I left a change-up over the plate to the first batter, and he drove it.”
Robby Kuzdale made it 7-4 when he singled to right-center, scoring Ortiz. But Kuzdale was picked off first to end the inning.
The Crushers tacked on two more in the seventh, keyed by a ground-rule double by Russell Moldenhauer, an RBI sacrifice fly by Decker and an RBI single by Correa.
“It’s a big relief, but we’ve got to play just one game at a time,” said Moldenhauer, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored. “The past couple of games haven’t been going our way at home. A lot of the games haven’t been going our way at home. For me, I know I’ve just got to become consistent with my approach at the plate, and that’s the same with everybody else.
“We’ve got to cut down on swinging at bad pitches. The more we stay consistent, the more wins will come.”
Randy Sturgill earned his first save with 2⅔ scoreless innings of relief, only allowing one hit and striking out two.
- The Crushers activated reliever Travis Risser from the disabled list prior to Monday’s game and placed pitcher Chance Gilmore on the suspended list. According to team sources, the move was not disciplinary. Gilmore’s passport hasn’t been cleared, and they have a series coming up in London, Ontario. They also released pitcher Mike Inselmann following Monday’s game.
- Wild Things first-year manager Chris Bando is a native Clevelander who was a catcher for the Indians from 1981-88.
- The Crushers honored the Keystone state softball champs, the Westlake state baseball runners-up and the Brookside district volleyball champs prior to Monday night’s game.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.