AVON — The Lake Erie Crushers proved Sunday there’s more than one way to win a baseball game.
A day after getting a 400-foot walk-off home run from Ryan Hutchison, the Crushers only needed a 40-foot infield chopper off the bat of Emmanuel Quiles to score the winning run in a 2-1, 11-inning win over Schaumburg at All Pro Freight Stadium.
With two outs in the bottom of the 11th, Quiles, a catcher who entered the game for defense in the eighth inning, hit a chopper down the first base line with Vincent Mejia on third and Wes Patterson on first.
Boomers pitcher Clark Labitan reacted quickly, coming off the mound to field the ball. But his throw to first nailed Quiles in the arm, allowing Mejia to score the winning run and the Crushers to sweep Schaumburg in a matchup of last year’s Frontier League championship series.
“I was looking for something away and he threw me a fastball, but I got a piece of it,” Quiles said. “I saw the ball was fair and I tried to run down the inside to first and he got me in the elbow with the throw.”
Lake Erie improved to 3-0, despite scoring just four runs over the final two games of the series. The Crushers’ other run came in the sixth inning when center fielder Juan Sanchez led off with a single and scored on a single from third baseman Anderson Hidalgo.
The Crushers were their own worst enemy, hitting into four double plays over the first nine innings.
“We didn’t get that one big inning but we put together some good at-bats,” Lake Erie manager Chris Mongiardo said. “Juan was the one who got us going in the sixth inning. There is no one else I would want coming up to get a rally going.”
The bullpen continued to bolster the Crushers. On Sunday, six relievers combined to throw 5⅔ shutout innings. Over the three-game series, the bullpen combined to hold Schaumburg scoreless for 13⅔ innings.
“I might be asking a little too much of them to throw three days in a row, but that’s why I’m limiting them to an inning per outing,” Mongiardo said of his relievers. “As a manager, it’s important to have a good feeling to know the spots to use those guys. I’m starting to get that feeling with (Brad) Duffy and (Zac) Treece.”
Right-hander Matt Litzinger picked up the win after throwing just one pitch in the top of the 11th. Labitan (0-2) was the loser for the second day in a row for the winless Boomers team.
Quiles, who worked extensively with all of the team’s pitchers during the preseason, said the Crushers relievers have been successful by focusing on the basics.
“When we have bullpen sessions we work on first-pitch strikes,” he said. “They know if they throw first-pitch strikes we’ll have a lot of good innings.
That allows our pitchers to work ahead in the count and use their fastballs to get ground balls and strikeouts.”
Lake Erie hits the road for the next six games beginning Tuesday when it opens a three-game series at the Windy City (Ill.) Thunderbolts. The Crushers will also play a three-game weekend series at Southern Illinois before returning home.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Lake Erie Crushers vs. Windy City Thunderbolts
WHEN: Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Standard Bank Stadium, Crestwood, Ill.