AVON — The Lake Erie Crushers scored their first four runs on just one hit.
They gave up four runs in the third on three hits that didn’t even leave the infield.
They tied the game after a fly out and an errant throw on a rundown that could have resulted in a double play.
Just another day in the Frontier League.
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On “Football Frenzy Night,” the Crushers and the Normal (Ill.) CornBelters combined for 21 runs, 16 walks and four errors in one of the ugliest games of the season. But in the end, the Crushers, despite only eight hits, held on for a 12-9 win in front of 2,013 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
The Crushers (45-36) ended their second-to-last homestand of the season on a high note, finishing 4-2. They improved to 23-9 at The Freight since starting the season 1-11.
“We need wins,” Crushers manager John Massarelli said. “If we’re gonna make a run, we need wins like that. Look at the magical run St. Louis went on last year and all the (stuff) that had to go down for them over the last 30 days for them to even get in, and then the playoffs and how crazy it was. They took advantage of games like this.
“You’re going to have games like this, and you’re going to have to win games like this if you want to make a run. I give a lot of credit to the guys for fighting through a lot of adversity in this game and finding a way to come out on top.”
The Crushers overcame a bad outing from starter Pat Arnold, who was tagged for seven runs (three earned) in 3⅔ innings. He gave up a home run on his second pitch of the game, which set the tone for this slugfest.
“His line looked a lot worse than it was,” Massarelli said. “We played poor defense (in the third), and it led to a rough inning. But he gave up the home run in the fourth (to Ernie Banks), and he’s got to do a better job against him. He made some mistakes, but I saw some positives.”
Lake Erie trailed 9-4 going into the bottom of the fifth before the offense started to get going off Normal starter Brendon Smith.
Three singles, the last an RBI single from Andrew Davis, chased Smith and made it 9-5. Reliever Tyler Stovall (1-9) promptly gave up an RBI double to Russell Moldenhauer that cut it to 9-6, and Davis and Moldenhauer scored on a two-out, two-run double down the line by Robby Kuzdale to make it a brand-new ballgame at 9-8.
“We’re hitting the ball well,” Massarelli said. “We’re getting production out of our four big guns in the middle of the order (Bowman, Taylor, Davis, Moldenhauer) consistently, and when our offense gets rolling, it’s usually the top of the order getting real hot or the bottom of the order getting real hot.
“Erie, Wally, Figgy, Kuz are all getting on base and producing. We seem to put up 10-spots when they do that.”
Brian Erie and J.C. Figueroa led off the bottom of the sixth with walks. Daniel Bowman, who drilled a two-run home run in the bottom of the first — the Crushers’ lone hit for the first four innings — flew out to center for the second out.
Both Figueroa and Erie tagged up on the play, but the throw came to second forcing Figueroa to scramble back to first. Shortstop Jesse Olivar’s throw sailed past first for an error, however, allowing Erie to score the tying run.
The Crushers used some two-out magic in the bottom of the seventh to take the lead. Correa was hit by a pitch and Erie drew a walk to end Stovall’s night.
Josh Joseph promptly allowed a full-count, two-run single to left by Figueroa, scoring Correa and Moldenhauer to give the Crushers an 11-9 lead.
“I knew when I came up the fifth and we were down 9-4, we had lost a lot of energy and I knew I had to get something going,” Figueroa said. “It was a do-or-die game, and everyone knows every win means everything to us right now. I’m glad we won tonight, and I’m glad I had a little bit to do with it.
“(In the seventh), I was looking for a fastball out over the plate. He got down 2-0 and worked it to 2-2. Once he missed on a fastball away, I knew after that he had to come to me. It was a fastball outside and I was ready for it. It was the only pitch I was looking for in that at-bat, and luckily, I got it.”
Trevor Longfellow (8-2) and Jonathan Kountis (15th save) combined to hold Normal to just one hit and no runs over the final four innings.
“We needed to shut it off, so to speak,” Massarelli said. “Deeds came in and shut it down and got the momentum back on our side. Our offense was able to piece some walks together and set the stage for Figgy’s big hit.”
Following the game, the Crushers signed pitcher Matt Smith — who was with the team in 2010 — and placed pitcher Josh Hungerman on the 14-day disabled list. They also moved pitchers Brad Duffy and Alex Loftin to the 60-day DL.
Crushers catcher Brian Erie leads the Frontier League with 31 runners caught stealing. As a team, the Crushers have gunned down a league-leading 38 runners this season.
- WHO: Lake Erie Crushers at Joliet (Ill.) Slammers
- TIME: 8:05
- WHERE: SilverCross Field, Joliet
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.