AVON — A baseball player’s first professional home run has to be unforgettable, right?
Well, when that home run proves to be the difference in a one-run win over the top team in your division, that’s about as special as it comes.
Seth Granger’s solo home run over the right-field wall on the first pitch of the bottom of the third inning helped kick-start the Lake Erie Crushers’ offense Sunday and provided the margin in a 5-4 win over the Frontier League East Division-leading Traverse City Beach Bums at All Pro Freight Stadium.
Not that anything came easy for the Crushers, who had to survive a scary ninth inning in which the Beach Bums scored twice and had the tying run at second with two outs.
“I’ve been waiting all year for that,” said Granger, who is hitting .352 (6-for-17) in his last five games following Sunday’s 2-for-3 performance. “I finally got a good pitch and got a good swing on it and it felt good.
“I’ve been feeling more aggressive at the plate than I was at the beginning of the year and I’ve been working hard every day. It’s all about being aggressive and having the mindset of being ready to go and deliver every game.”
The victory clinches the series win over Beach Bums (40-28) and brings the 37-30 Crushers to within 2½ games of the Bums in the East Division standings. The Crushers have won four straight — all at home — to move just a half-game behind Southern Illinois for second place.
They are 20-8 since July 1.
“It’s a good feeling, but we’ve just got to continue getting after it,” Crushers manager Jeff Isom said. “We still have a lot of games left in the season, so we just try to win as many series’ as we can the rest of the way through and keep playing good baseball.
“The guys are playing very well. We’re getting key hits now — which were something we didn’t get early on — and we’re getting solid pitching and great defense to go with it. Now, we’ve just got to keep winning.”
Isom is pleased with Granger’s recent performances.
“It was a big home run,” Isom said. “That first pitch was elevated and he got a good swing on it. It’s an exciting time for him. I know the guys gave him a hard time in the dugout, giving him the silent treatment when he came back in for a few moments before mobbing him.
“That’s something we haven’t had a whole lot of is the long ball as of recently. He’s been swinging the bat extremely well and hopefully it takes off for him from here on out.”
Granger’s blast was one of several key hits by the Crushers. On defense, the team turned four double plays — the last three ending the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
“To me, there were three things that were the difference in this ballgame,” Isom said. “The three double plays that Mickey Jannis ended up coaxing in the following innings after we scored three (in the fifth) were the ballgame to me, at that point.
“That’s one thing I’ve said from the start, that we built this team around defense. If we get ground balls, we’ve got to be able to turn double plays, and these guys do a great job taking pride in their defense. When there is an opportunity to turn a double play, there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to do it.”
Jannis got his first one on his first pitch of the game, inheriting a two-on, one-out scenario from starter Matt Smith (4-3), a grounder to Andrew Davis at third. Davis stepped on third and fired to first to end the inning and the threat after the Beach Bums had just cut their deficit to 5-2.
Prior to that, Anderson Hidalgo came up with one of the biggest hits of the game. Stepping to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Hidalgo lined a 2-1 pitch down the left-field line. All three runners scored without a throw to the plate to break the game wide open.
“That’s that two-out hitting we’ve been talking about,” Isom said. “Hidalgo ends up turning on a pitch on the inside half and ended up getting that big double to clear the bases. That (double) was one of the biggest keys to us winning this game.”
The Crushers finished with 10 hits a night after they had nine in a 7-3 victory. Scoring 12 runs on 19 hits against the team with the second-lowest ERA in the league isn’t too shabby.
Isom left Jannis in to finish off the game in the ninth, but the reliever began to labor, giving up back-to-back doubles, which led to one run. After yielding a one-out single up the middle to No. 9 hitter Matt Howard, Isom summoned Jordan Wellander from the pen.
Wellander gave up an RBI groundout to first to cut the lead to one, but came back to strike out Scott Woodward looking to earn his second save.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Lake Erie vs. Traverse City
WHERE: All Pro Freight Stadium, Avon