AVON — Lake Erie Crushers manager John Massarelli wants the team’s fans to know that the Crushers have nothing against Avon, or All Pro Freight Stadium.
Rather, Lake Erie has the same problem away from home as it does here: The Crushers haven’t hit well all season. It’s just that on the road, so far, they’ve been able to scratch out some victories despite their hitting deficiencies.
At home, it’s been a very different story. The Gateway Grizzlies blitzed Lake Erie starter Mike Insellman — making his first start of the season — for seven runs in 1 2⁄3 innings and cruised to a 7-0 victory in front of 2,943.
The Crushers, 7-13 overall, are 1-10 at All Pro and have scored 26 runs in those 11 games, while allowing 58.
“When you give up seven runs in the first two innings, it’s difficult to get back in it,” Massarelli said. “We’re just not hitting. It’s not where we’re (playing), we just need to put the barrel of the bat on the ball and have good at-bats consistently. When you have three and four guys going through (tough times) at the same time, your offense is going to struggle.”
Gateway entered the game batting .234 as a team, tied with Lake Erie for the third-worst mark in the league. But they went 9-for-15 in the first two innings Saturday, including two home runs, and Lake Erie never threatened.
The Crushers, meanwhile, managed just five hits as their early season offensive struggles continue. That was no issue for the Grizzlies, who pushed across four in the first. Jonathan Johnson led off with a single to right, and Jerod Yakubik followed with a one-out single of his own. With the count 1-0 against John Shelby, Johnson scored on a passed ball by Insellman. Shelby then singled, and Vladimir Frias followed with a three-run home run to right for a 4-0 Grizzly lead.
“They squared up a couple pitches that stayed out over the plate, that stayed flat,” said Crushers catcher Kyle Shaffer. “They took advantage of those pitches and hit them hard.”
Insellman (0-1, 17.17 ERA) started as part of a so-called bullpen day, where the Crushers hoped to string together pitchers from their bullpen. The move was necessitated by Sam Strickland’s stint on the 14-day disabled list.
But Gateway used the long ball again in the second to extend the lead to 7-0, and with a rally that all came with two out. Amherst native Antone DeJesus singled to right, and Insellman walked Yakubik. Shelby then hit a three-run shot deep over the wall in left.
The Grizzlies threatened again in the third, again with two out and again with DeJesus and Shelby reaching, the former on a walk and the latter on a ground-rule double on which DeJesus would have scored easily had the ball not bounced over the wall. Lake Erie reliever Ben Klafczynski got out of the jam; after Insellman, the Crushers’ bullpen pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits.
The Crushers had their chances to claw back, but couldn’t cash in. In the fourth, Gateway starter Patrick Arnold got a little wild, walking Andrew Davis to start the inning. After Arnold induced two groundouts, Kellen Kulbacki singled to center and Brandon Decker walked to load the bases, but Wally Correa struck out.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
• WHO: Lake Erie Crushers vs. Gateway Grizzlies
• TIME: 5:05
• WHERE: All Pro Freight Stadium