AVON — The Chris Mongiardo Era began with one of the most resounding early season performances the Lake Erie Crushers have ever had.
Going up against the Schaumburg Boomers — the team that swept them in the Frontier League Championship Series in September — and with several new faces in the lineup, the Crushers broke out the bats and lit up the scoreboard Friday for Mongiardo, the new manager.
Having two innings where the team sent all nine men to the plate, coupled with a solid pitching performance by starter Mickey Jannis (1-0) and four relievers, Lake Erie won its home opener for the first time since 2010. The Crushers gained a measure of revenge on the Boomers with an 11-3 win in front of an Opening Day crowd of 1,234 at All Pro Freight Stadium.
“I guess you’re only as good as your starter tomorrow,” Mongiardo said. “I hadn’t won (my season opener) in Richmond. I’d say I took an 0-fer in Opening Days, so I am happy to get the Opening Day win. Does it mean we’re going to win the championship? Probably not. But I’m happy to get the win.
“I just was happy with the way they played tonight. Even if we would have lost, I was happy with the way the guys played, especially with the bullpen coming in and with us getting big hits.”
Newcomer Trevor Stevens set the tone from the leadoff spot, drawing a walk and stealing second on the next pitch. He not only wound up scoring the first run of the season, but finished 2-for-3 with three runs, a double, a triple and an RBI.
“It was a good win tonight,” Mongiardo said. “Other than (the fourth and fifth) innings where they came back and tied it on a couple of infield hits, the pitching did a good job the rest of the way. Offensively, we started off in the first inning with some good at-bats, and we just kept it going from there. Our new leadoff guy Stevens had four or five good at-bats and really set the tone for what we wanted to do.
“He said he was comfortable batting from the leadoff spot, and you can tell that he was. He made a difference both offensively and defensively. I don’t want to put the whammy on him after one game, but he’s a good player. I love his attitude.”
Stevens led the way for a 12-hit attack from the Crushers lineup. Every batter except for one — Kevin Berard — got a hit, and Berard wound up with an RBI.
“It was a lot of fun tonight,” Stevens said. “I think it’s always important to come out aggressive, especially when our pitcher comes out and puts up a zero right away. It’s great to go out and attack the other team as fast as you can.”
Seth Granger’s two-out, two-run single plated the Crushers’ first two runs, and an RBI single by Vincent Mejia in the third made it a 3-0 lead.
Jannis pitched well, striking out eight and scattering four hits in five innings. He ran into trouble in the fourth and fifth. Back-to-back singles that traveled only 20 feet apiece plated two runs in the fourth, and a throwing error by Juan Sanchez on a potential inning-ending double play in the fifth tied the score at 3.
But Sanchez atoned for his miscue in the bottom of the sixth, delivering a two-run single up the middle. The No. 9 hitter finished 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs.
“We were thinking about the championship loss a lot,” said Sanchez, one of seven starters Friday that were on last year’s team. “We wanted to beat them. We had to do something about that sweep. We didn’t want to lose to them again.”
Sanchez’s hit was the fourth of six straight hitters to reach base in the sixth off reliever Hunter Ackerman, who left the game without recording an out. Stevens followed with an RBI double, and Anderson Hidalgo closed the book on Ackerman with an RBI fielder’s choice, capping a four-run inning that broke open the game.
In the meantime, Mongiardo turned the game over to his bullpen. Relievers Brad Duffy, Jose Rosario, Brandon Smith and Zac Treece combined to throw four scoreless innings, holding the Boomers to just three hits, five walks and seven strikeouts.
“Mickey threw good, but he got into a little jam and gave up some runs on some infield hits,” Mongiardo said. “He made his pitches when he had to, and that’s what he does. He was over 100 pitches, and Duffy really set the tone for the rest of the game with that (sixth) inning. He really settled us down and threw the ball well tonight.”
Granger, Emmanuel Quiles and Craig Hertler joined Stevens and Sanchez as Crushers with two hits.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.