AVON — Prior to Friday night, this year’s Lake Erie Crushers hadn’t put together back-to-back shutout victories. They also hadn’t won a game at All Pro Freight Stadium this season in front of a crowd of over 3,500.
Both of those “nevers” ended Friday night. A crowd of 4,215 was treated to the team’s fifth shutout and second in as many nights, as the Crushers finished off their first home sweep since the season-opening series May 16-18 with a 6-0 victory over the Windy City ThunderBolts.
The Crushers improved to 36-30 and are keeping pace with the top teams in the Frontier League. They are three games out of the final wild-card berth as the league heads into the final month of the regular season.
They’ve won seven of their last nine games at The Freight since the All-Star break and are 24-15 at home.
Friday night, it was Zac Treece (4-3) and three relievers who combined to blank the ThunderBolts (24-41) on five hits, three walks and eight strikeouts. Treece scattered three hits, two walks and four strikeouts in 52⁄3⅔ innings, helping to extend the staff’s scoreless streak to 23⅔ innings.
“Treece made a few adjustments since his last start and pitched a good ball game,” Crushers manager Chris Mongiardo said. “(Trevor) Longfellow came in (with no outs and two on in the eighth) and shut down their main part of the order. That was the game right there. He did a great job.”
Craig Hertler and Juan Sanchez continued their torrid hitting streaks. Hertler has hit in 11 straight games and reached base in 19 straight following a 3-for-4 night, while Sanchez has now hit in 17 consecutive games by going 2-for-4.
“(Hertler) had a great day,” Mongiardo said. “The best part of his day is he didn’t give away any at-bats. Even in his last at-bat, with a 6-0 lead and two outs, he battled. All of those at-bats count in the end, and he was able to draw a walk. He had a great day.
“Same with Sanchez. We’ve been getting some consistent play from those guys, from (Ryan) Hutchison, from (Emmanuel) Quiles — all those guys had good at-bats tonight.”
Hertler helped set up the Crushers’ first run in the third when he singled to right, sending Trevor Stevens — who led off with an infield hit — from first to third. Stevens scored on Andrew Davis’ sac fly to left.
He also set the tone for the fifth with a leadoff triple, and promptly scored on a wild pitch. That increased the lead to 4-0.
“I’ve been trying to see the ball a little deeper and not trying to be too aggressive,” said Hertler, who is 7-for-13 during the homestand. “I’m trying to catch the spin coming off the ball and helping to see the pitches earlier, getting my foot down (in the box) a bit earlier. It just seems like our offense is kind of clicking. It’s contagious.
“It’s cool to get the big crowd riled up and a good thing to win in front of a big crowd. When you lose, it sucks because it gets really quiet. When we’re putting up runs and our pitchers are shutting them down, you can hear the crowd erupting and that gets you pumped up a little bit.”
The Crushers tacked on two in each of the fourth and sixth innings. Hertler and Quiles had back-to-back two-out RBI singles in the sixth, while Joey Burney and Stevens drove in runs in the fourth.
Stevens has been playing well since being activated off the disabled list on July 20. He went 2-for-3 with two runs to extend his hitting streak to six and eight of the last nine games.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Lake Erie Crushers vs. Evansville Otters
WHERE: All Pro Freight Stadium, Avon
PITCHERS: Rein (0-5, 5.63 ERA) vs. Dennis (2-1, 5.01)