AVON — When a team is struggling like the Lake Erie Crushers had been heading into Wednesday night’s game, any win is a big win.
But when that win comes with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, after waiting out an hour delay for a late-night thunderstorm and after giving back a seventh-inning lead, it becomes huge.
Anderson Hidalgo, who was struggling in the series and was 0-for-4 heading into his last at-bat, drilled the first pitch he saw onto the warning track in right-center for a two-out, walk-off single, lifting the Crushers to a 3-2 win over the East Division-leading Washington Wild Things.
An announced crowd of 1,021 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium — which appeared to be far smaller due to the delayed start — witnessed the Crushers improve to 14-15 with their fifth walk-off win of the season. They also saw the end of the team’s season-long six-game losing streak.
Washington fell to 19-10.
“It was definitely good to get a win, no matter what,” Crushers manager Chris Mongiardo said. “A win’s a win. I think Hidalgo should be the best hitter in this league. If you look at his minor league numbers, he’s got over 500 hits. He’s a good hitter.”
With one out in the 10th, pinch hitter Ryan Hutchison drilled a Pat Butler (1-2) pitch off the top of the left-field wall for a double.
Juan Sanchez followed with a groundout to short for the second out, but Hutchison took third on the play. Washington manager Bart Zeller elected to intentionally walk Craig Hertler — who was 1-for-3 — to get to Hidalgo.
“Hertler gets a lot of game-winning hits for us and Hidalgo just didn’t look good tonight until then,” Mongiardo said. “He’s been hitting the ball well and he’s been putting up good at-bats. He was out for the three games in Gateway. But I believe he’s the best hitter in the league.
“Whether he’s 0-for-3 or 3-for-3, I like Hidalgo in that situation.”
Hidalgo, through interpreter Emmanuel Quiles, said seeing the Wild Things walk Hertler to get to him was a big motivator.
“I concentrated in the last at-bat,” Hidalgo said. “I saw he walked the guy before me intentionally, so I put it in my mind that I was going to win this for the team. I was going to get a big hit to give our team the win.
“I forgot everything that happened to me earlier in the game. I concentrated, got a good pitch to hit and put it in the gap.”
Prior to the 10th, it looked like Vincent Mejia’s second home run in as many games and third overall would be enough for the Crushers. Mejia drilled 2-1 pitch off Washington starter Zac Fuesser for a two-out, two-run homer to left.
The blast broke up what had been a three-hit shutout by Fuesser and gave the Crushers a 2-1 lead.
“He’s been playing a lot better and he’s been hitting a lot of doubles,” Mongiardo said of Mejia. “He’s been hitting a lot of doubles. I’d like to see him put it together. He’s a threat to hit 15 or 20 home runs. He’s got a lot of natural ability.”
Crushers starter Mickey Jannis gave up a run in he third, but scattered six hits with two walks and five strikeouts in five innings.
Brad Duffy and Brad Zambron combined to give the lead away in the top of the seventh, however. Duffy was charged with the run after giving up a bunt single to Jim Vahalik and a single by Daniel Poma in his only two hitters. Zambron walked Garrett Rau on four pitches to load the bases for the dangerous C.J. Beatty.
Beatty drove in the run on a fly out to left. But a head’s up play and strong throw from Zach Bricknell got Poma at third for a huge double play and kept the game tied at 2.
Closer Jason Wilson, who blew the save Tuesday, gained some redemption with a 1-2-3 ninth inning. He, Jordan McCoy (eighth) and winning pitcher Trevor Longfellow (1-1) combined to retire the final nine Washington hitters.
Hidalgo believes this win could be the catalyst for another run to the postseason.
“Last year, we got off to a slow start but we turned it on in the second half and made the playoffs,” he said. “I feel like we’re going to do that again, and this is the win that will get that going.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Lake Erie Crushers vs. Washington Wild Things
WHERE: All Pro Freight Stadium, Avon
PITCHERS: Treece (0-0, 2.46 ERA) vs. Dunn (2-1, 3.89)
RADIO: WEOL 930-AM