However, the finish may have been even better.
After Matt Smith suffered a blown save by giving up a run in the ninth, Lake Erie and the Gateway Grizzlies battled through two scoreless extra innings before the Crushers pushed a run across in the 12th for a 2-1 win in front of 1,711 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
With one out and runners on first and second, rookie Seth Granger hit a single to right. Right fielder Jon Myer misplayed the ball, and his throw to the plate was just a bit late to get Daniel Bowman.
Just like that, the Crushers — and new manager Jeff Isom — got into the win column in 2013.
“You see my owner (Steven Edelson) in here next me — there’s been no pressure from Day 1 since I signed back on Dec. 19,” Isom joked.
“They told me, ‘You’ve got to win the first game.’ We obviously didn’t do that, but we got the second one for him. I think we’re going to win a few more for him this season, there’s no question.
“Yes, it’s a relief to get that first ‘W.’ At least I know I’ll have my job tomorrow.”
With one out in the 12th, Bowman, who went 3-for-6, ripped a double that got hung up in the right-field corner. Bowman, who didn’t realize the ball skipped past the right fielder on the carom off the wall, slid into second when he could have possibly stretched it to a triple.
It proved to be a moot point when Emmanuel Quiles was intentionally walked by loser Dan Eaton (0-1), putting men on first and second for Granger.
Granger, on a 1-0 pitch, hit a blooper into right field for a single. The ball kicked off Myers’ glove and rolled past him for an error.
Isom sent Bowman on the misplay, and he beat the desperate throw by a second to touch off a wild celebration.
Granger was given his initiation present when he was got a shaving cream pie to the face as he walked into the clubhouse afterward.
“It feels great,” said Granger, who went 2-for-5. “I couldn’t have pictured it any better than that. What a great team win tonight. We battled hard all night long. The pitchers worked hard, the fielders worked hard. I got lucky and had the last AB, and I was able to put a good swing on it.
“Personally, this means a lot. It’s something that I’ll always remember. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to experience it with.”
Prior to the extra innings, Rein was the story of the game. Making his first start as a Crusher after getting his contract purchased by the Cardinals just days after signing with the team in 2011 — and without even throwing a pitch — Rein showed the fans that he was worth the wait.
Rein tossed three perfect innings and retired the first 10 men he faced in all. He didn’t allow a baserunner to reach third until giving up a two-out triple to Jet Butler in the top of the seventh.
“The key was throwing pitches for strikes,” Rein said. “Also, just being able to throw different pitches at different times for strikes.
“When I came up here, I knew I’d been here before. It was cool to come back, especially since the town of Avon is so nice and the Crushers are first class. That makes it even better. So I’m enjoying this and looking forward to the next one.”
Rein struck out seven and didn’t walk anyone in his seven shutout innings, giving up just four hits.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Isom said of Rein. “He’s kind of like a left-handed Greg Maddux-type guy. He’s going to locate his fastball and throw three pitches for strikes, and he kept them off-balance all night. It was a very outstanding effort on his part and I’m very happy with the performance that he put out there.
“More importantly, we only walked one guy all night tonight. We preach to our pitchers that, if you can keep the ball down and make the defense work, we’re going to be a good club.”
A one-out RBI double by Butler off of Smith, who was in his second inning of work, tied the game at 1. The Crushers put at least two runners on in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings but weren’t able to scratch a run across.
Left fielder Ricardo Lizcano may have saved the game in the top of the 11th. With runners on second and third and one out, Butler flied out to shallow left. Flores was sent home, and Lizcano’s throw to the plate reached Quiles in time for an inning-ending double play.
“Lizcano threw out that guy at the plate, which was huge,” Isom said. “That just was one example of another great outing from our defense. If we continue to pitch and play defense, the offense will be there. I’m very comfortable with what we’ve got with our players and our personnel.
“They made plays tonight, as they did the night before. It was a great defensive game. Now we’ve got to cash in offensively when we’re in scoring position.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.