AVON — Rockford’s Joey Wagman was virtually unhittable Thursday night.
Emphasis on virtually.
The Crushers’ Ryan Hutchison saw to that.
Hutchison hit a solo blast down the right-field line for his second walk-off home run of the season to give the Crushers a 1-0 win in front of 1,752 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
Wagman had retired 15 consecutive hitters and was working on a three-hit shutout before Hutchison’s game-winner.
“We couldn’t really get it going all night,” Hutchison said. “Their pitchers have been amazing all week and (Wagman) was amazing tonight. He made one mistake and I capitalized on it. So that was good.
“He threw me a fastball away. He threw it the pitch before and it was called a strike, but I thought it was a little low and out. He tried it again, but he left it a little high and I got a good piece of it.”
Wagman (4-2) struck out 11, didn’t walk anyone and only gave up four hits.
In fact, Rockford’s pitchers held the Crushers to just 14 hits in and four runs in the three-game series. But Lake Erie (19-17) was still able to take two of three from the Aviators (16-18).
It was the Crushers’ second walk-off win in as many nights and seventh of the season. They are11-5 in one-run games and 10 of their last 11 games having been decided by one run.
Hutchison wasn’t even in the starting lineup. He came in after designated hitter Andrew Davis was ejected by home plate umpire Kyle Rees for tossing his bat following a called third strike in the first inning.
Davis’ strikeout was the first of seven called strikeouts for Wagman.
“(Wagman) pitched a great game,” Crushers manager Chris Mongiardo said. “That was one of the better games I’ve seen in this league, to be honest with you. He was hitting his spots. I couldn’t really tell if he was off the plate and (the umpires) were giving it to him.
“But either way, he was throwing them there all game and he did a great job pitching. The guy throws four pitches for strikes and he throws that slow breaking ball as an out pitch. When you change speeds like that, I really don’t know what to say. The guy pitched good.”
The home run was just Hutchison’s second of the season and second of his career — and both were game-winners.
“It’s good, but I wish I could have had a few more in between there,” Hutchison said. “Anytime you can get a ‘W’ is big, and anytime you can get a series win, especially when we didn’t have the bats going the whole series, it was really good for us to get that ‘W.’”
The teams combined for 25 strikeouts. Six Crushers pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts, led by four from winning pitcher Trevor Longfellow (3-1) — on the only four hitters he faced.
“Longfellow threw really good at the end,” Mongiardo said. “(Starter Zach) Gordon had a really nice start. He coaxed a lot of ground balls. His pitch count was up a little bit. This was only his second start, so I’m trying to build him up a little bit and I didn’t want to overdo him.”
Gordon hasn’t allowed a run in either of his starts, but was taken out after 4⅔ innings and 67 pitches. He scattered three hits, walked two and struck out three.
Jordan McCoy, who inherited a two-on, one-out situation in the sixth, promptly gave up an infield single when he glanced to third before throwing to first. But he came back to strike out Kyle Dhanani and Mason Morioka to escape the jam and keep the game scoreless.
“I was hoping to throw Brandon Smith two innings, but he struggled in the sixth,” Mongiardo said. “Those were a couple big outs by McCoy. He had a bit of bad judgment on the grounder, but he bore down and got two huge strikeouts. To me, that was a big part of the game.”
Rockford, which stranded 10 runners, also loaded the bases in the fifth off Gordon and Smith, but Smith struck out Tyger Pederson on a full-count pitch to end the threat.
Adam Ford started the game with a leadoff infield single, but the Crushers did little else. The Crushers’ last hit prior to Hutchison’s home run was a two-out single by Craig Hertler in the bottom of the third.
“I think we only scored four runs total at Traverse City as well,” Mongiardo said of last weekend’s series. “We’ve got to do a better job of hitting, obviously. But (Wagman) threw a great ballgame tonight. You’ve got to give him credit. But we’ll take the two wins.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.