AVON — Traverse City became the first Frontier League team to clinch a playoff berth Friday with its win over the Crushers.
Saturday, the Beach Bums showed they weren’t done celebrating.
Pouncing on Crushers ace Paul Fagan for three runs in the top of the first inning, Traverse City put a dent in Lake Erie’s playoff push with a 6-2 victory in front of 2,947 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
With one regular-season game remaining at The Freight, the Crushers are 26-24 at home. At 50-39, they are one game behind the Florence Freedom and the Schaumburg Boomers for the final playoff spot and two behind the second-place Southern Illinois Miners with just seven games remaining.
“I thought we needed to win this series,” Crushers manager John Massarelli said. “To me, losing this series means if we want to reach our goals (of a playoff berth), we probably can’t lose another series the rest of the year. It simplifies things.
“We’ll probably have to win both series on the road (against Windy City and Southern Illinois), which we’ve done in the past. We have the best road record in the league. We’ll go from there. Hopefully, that gets us in.”
Traverse City (60-29), which won its eighth straight game Saturday, held the Crushers to just six hits and to single runs in the first and last innings. Meanwhile, it had 10 hits and bounced Fagan (7-8) from the game after just 2⅓ innings pitched.
“We got outplayed, and that’s really about it,” Massarelli said. “They outplayed us in all phases of the game.”
The lone bright spot was the longest home run ever hit in the four-year history of All Pro Freight Stadium. Designated hitter Russell Moldenhauer earned that distinction with his eighth home run of the season, which hit just below the Crushers logo above the scoreboard in right field.
The scoreboard is 20 feet beyond the fence and is 45 feet high. The home run hit about two-thirds of the way up.
“He hit that one a long way,” Massarelli said. “I wish somebody would have been on in front of him, though.”
Other than that, there wasn’t much to be happy about for the Crushers.
Fagan walked the first two hitters he faced before giving up Jose Vargas’ league-leading 95th RBI on a single. Two batters later, Kyle Colligan drilled a two-run single to left to give Traverse City a 3-0 lead.
It was a lead it never relinquished, even though the Crushers answered back with one in the bottom of the inning.
Whitmore held Lake Erie to just three hits in six innings, although he walked six batters.
Fagan walked five and gave up five hits, and all four of the runs he allowed were earned.
Today’s game will be Fan Appreciation Day at All Pro Freight Stadium. Unless the Crushers qualify for the playoffs, it will be their last home game of the season. The Crushers are just 1,690 fans from tying last season’s attendance mark, which would be the third-highest mark in four years.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
• WHO: Lake Erie Crushers vs. Traverse City Beach Bums
• TIME: 5:05 p.m.
• WHERE: All Pro Freight Stadium, Avon
• RADIO: WEOL 930-AM