AVON — It appeared the Crushers had left their offense behind as Sunday’s game progressed.
Less than 24 hours after erupting for 16 runs, Lake Erie , squandered numerous scoring chances as the Florence Freedom clung to a one-run lead.
But that all changed in the ninth inning, when the Crushers have been dangerous — especially at All Pro Freight Stadium.
With the bases loaded and two outs, rookie pinch-hitter Joey Burney ripped a single to the gap in right-center. Adam Ford and Craig Hertler scored without a throw, giving the Crushers a come-from-behind 4-3 win in front of 2,028 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
Lake Erie improved to 29-25 overall and 18-12 at The Freight with its ninth walk-off win of the season and first of the second half. It was the Crushers’ first win of the season when trailing after eight innings.
They were 0-17 in those games and 1-19 in games in which they trailed after seven innings.
The win also salvaged the opening homestand, giving them the series win over Florence with three more home games coming up against the Frontier Greys, starting tonight through Wednesday.
“That was our first comeback win of the year,” Crushers manager Chris Mongiardo said. “We’ve had a lot of walk-offs, but as far as trailing, that’s the first one we’ve had all year. That’s good to see.
“(Burney’s) a good player. I can’t say that I knew he was going to get a hit, but I like him as a baseball player. Basically, I thought Burney had a good chance to get a hit there.”
Burney’s heroics were set up by a one-out single from Ford, a two-out single by Hertler, who pinch hit for Kevin Franchetti and a fielding error by Florence first baseman Sam Eberle on a sharp grounder hit by leadoff man Juan Sanchez.
Burney, who hit his second home run of the season Saturday night, had been catching bullpen all day, but was told by Mongiardo in the seventh inning that, if the situation came up, he would be hitting in the ninth.
“That was actually my first-ever walk-off hit,” said Burney, who just finished a standout collegiate career at Old Dominion. “It was probably my most memorable moment in baseball that I’ve had so far. I’ve never done it before and I’m still the new guy being around all of these veterans. Just being accepted as one of the guys is great, but to come though in that situation is huge.
Prior to the ninth, the Crushers were held hitless since the fifth inning by Florence starter Peter Ghele and reliever Paul Levitt. In that inning, the Crushers had men on second and third with nobody out but couldn’t score after Stevens popped out to first, Andrew Davis grounded out to third and Anderson Hidalgo grounded out to the mound.
“The game was lackluster, to be honest with you,” Mongiardo said. “Our pitching held it down. We had second and third with nobody out in the fifth inning and gave away at-bats in a hurry. Luckily, we hung around.
“The bullpen did its job and Mickey (Jannis), I thought, threw his best game of the year. He was good today. He threw like he was throwing last year — two-seamers, a good slider.”
Jannis, who gave up a home run to the leadoff man and had the Crushers in a 3-0 hole following the second inning, kept Florence hitless from the second inning on until he was relieved by Trevor Longfellow in the seventh. His six-inning effort was the longest start by a Lake Erie pitcher during this homestand, and he struck out eight, walked two and only allowed two earned runs.
Longfellow and winner Jason Wilson (6-2) added three scoreless innings of relief. A one-out single by Mike Wilson snapped a streak of 24 consecutive Florence hitters without a hit.
The Crushers got on the board in the fourth on Vincent Mejia’s team-leading seventh home run of the season. With one out and Hidalgo on first following a leadoff walk, Mejia drilled the first pitch he saw halfway up the grassy knoll. The blast cut the deficit to 3-2.
“I thought that was going to get us going, but we sputtered after that,” Mongiardo said. “Usually a hit like that gets us going, but it wasn’t the case. Fortunately, we did a great job pitching to keep us in the game and give us that chance in the last inning, and then we came up with a couple really big hits.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.