Crushers manager Jeff Isom and his team wanted to put on a show worthy of the sell-out crowd of 4,514 fans that packed the stands for a July 4 celebration of baseball and fireworks.
The mission was accomplished.
Andrew Davis and Russell Moldenhauer each belted two-run home runs and Dave Middendorf pitched eight innings, scattering just four hits, as Lake Erie defeated Windy City 5-1 to complete a sweep of the three-game series.
“The coaching staff is no different than the fans, we check the pre-sale and we knew it was going to be a big crowd tonight,” Isom said. “The first thing I told the guys when we were taking the field was, ‘Go out there and put on a show and give them a reason to keep coming back.’ Middendorf did just that and we had a couple of home
runs, so the fans got their money worth tonight.”
Lake Erie (20-21) gave Middendorf all the offense he needed in the third inning when it scored four times. Davis hit his 10th home run of the season to right-center field off ThunderBolts starter Travis Tingle, scoring Max Casper and giving the team a 2-0 lead.
Anderson Hidalgo scored later in the inning when Moldenhauer hit his sixth home run of the year onto the grassy knoll beyond the left-field fence.
“We know what Davis can do as far as hitting home runs, but Moldenhauer has been struggling lately, but he had a good night tonight,” Isom said. “We haven’t had a lot of home run production recently but tonight was a case where the wind was blowing out and we took advantage of it.”
Meanwhile Middendorf made sure Windy City’s offensive woes continued for one more night. The ThunderBolts (17-26) were outscored 19-1 in the series. The left-hander from Cincinnati struck out three and did not allow a walk.
“I commanded my fastball and the other pitches seemed to be working as well,” said Middendorf, who is 6-3 with a 2.58 ERA. “It helped that they were swinging a lot and I kept my pitch count down.
“Our pitching staff is really starting to come together, pushing each other, really starting to peak as a unit. It helps that the hitters have been putting up a ton of runs because we really feed off of that.”
Lake Erie pounded out 12 hits off four Windy City pitchers. Moldenhauer led the way, going 3-for-4, while Hidalgo, Daniel Bowman and Emmanuel Quiles each had two hits.
Windy City scored its only in the seventh inning when Andrew Brauer led off with a double and came home on a C.J. Gillman ground out.
Crushers closer Dale Dickerson pitched the ninth inning in a non-save situation.
With a Rockford team that has the worst record in the Frontier League at 12-29 coming to town for a three-game weekend series, the Crushers are hoping to continue their winning ways.
“We’ve got get consistency, and if we’re going to be a good team, it has to be one through nine in the lineup,” Isom said. “I’m starting to see more of that from our guys. They are consistently having good at-bats and being selective with the pitches we’re swinging at. All three games (against Windy City) we’ve had our pitchers commanding the strike zone and getting ahead of hitters. If we keeping doing these things, we are going to be in a position to win a lot of games.”