September 19, 2014

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Craig Hertler’s first-inning homer provides spark as Crushers cruise past ThunderBolts

Lake Erie Crushers' Craig Hertler watches his first-inning shot clear the fence Wednesday. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Lake Erie Crushers’ Craig Hertler watches his first-inning shot clear the fence Wednesday. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

AVON — A 2-4 road trip capped by a series sweep at Schaumburg had the Lake Erie Crushers in a bad mood Wednesday.

It didn’t take long for them to start feeling better.

Craig Hertler led off the bottom of the first with a home run — his first of the season — over the right-field wall to set the tone in an 8-3 win over the Windy City ThunderBolts.

The Crushers belted three homers and had 14 hits and got a solid start from rookie Zach Gordon (2-2) to open their six-game homestand in style.

It was the first time in the last 10 series the Crushers won the opening game. The last time Lake Erie (34-30) won the series opener was June 21.

Windy City fell to 24-39.

“It was a big game and it was big to get a win,” Crushers manager Chris Mongiardo said. “We’ve got five more at home so it would be nice to get on a little streak. The only way to do that is to keep playing better every time out.”

Hertler worked the count full against Travis Tingle (6-4) and fouled a few pitches off before drilling one over the wall.

“I think it was pretty important, especially after getting swept on the road by Schaumburg,” said Hertler, who went 2-for-5. “To come out fast in the first inning and put a few on the board probably took some pressure off our pitcher. Zach did a great job after that.

“It felt good to start early and it seemed like a domino effect on our offense after that. It felt good to see a lot of pitches. Maybe it helped the guys on deck to see what he had. And I was lucky to get the barrel on it. First homer of the year … you don’t really expect that, but it was good to see it go out.”

The blast led to a seven-batter first inning. Emmanuel Quiles followed with a double off the top of the left-field wall and scored on Andrew Davis’ double to make it 2-0.

Anderson Hidalgo struck the next big blow in the third inning, blasting a 1-0 pitch well over the left-field wall and onto the top of the grassy knoll for a solo homer — his third of the season — to give the Crushers a 3-1 lead.

Ryan Hutchison added the exclamation point with a solo home run that got out of the park in a hurry with one down in the eighth. His fifth homer of the season made it 8-3.

Every Crusher in the lineup had at least one hit. The top four in the lineup — Hertler, Quiles, Davis and Hidalgo — each had two hits and were a combined 8-for-16.

The Crushers took the lead for good with a two-run fifth. After Quiles singled and Davis hit ground-rule double, Quiles scored on a passed ball to break a 3-3 tie and Davis came home on a sacrifice fly by Juan Sanchez.

Those runs made a winner of Gordon, who scattered six hits and three runs (two earned) in six innings. It was his longest start of the season.

Gordon struck out four and ended his night with back-to-back 1-2-3 innings. In fact, he and relievers Brad Zambron, Brandon Smith and Trevor Longfellow retired the final 17 hitters and combined to strike out 11 and with no walks.

“The key is staying relaxed and throwing first-pitch strikes,” Gordon said. “I was struggling my first couple of starts in that regard. Today I was able to control the outer half of the zone and that was really it, honestly — just throwing strikes and not getting behind hitters.”

Notable

  • The Crushers traded starting pitcher Mickey Jannis to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League for a player to be named later. Reliever Brant Masters was activated off the disabled list. Jannis, in his third season with the Crushers, went 3-4 with a 4.45 ERA.
  • Sanchez extended his hitting streak to 15 games. It’s the longest hitting streak for the team this year.

Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or dangilles73@gmail.com.

TONIGHT
WHO: Lake Erie Crushers vs. Windy City ThunderBolts
TIME: 7:05
WHERE: All Pro Freight Stadium, Avon
PITCHERS: Kibby (5-2, 2.22 ERA) vs. Spence (0-5, 5.82)

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