AVON — For a band that hadn’t seemed to be in tune often this year, the hits just kept coming for the Crushers on Wednesday morning.
Lake Erie banged out 19 of them against Florence in front of a packed All Pro Freight Stadium and rolled to an 11-8 win over the Freedom.
“We’ve been having conversations with our hitters and they came ready to produce this morning,” Crushers manager Jeff Isom said.
It was a seven-hit, six-run first inning that really got Lake Erie (4-7) going against the East Division-leading Freedom (6-5).
Left fielder Kevin Berard led off by beating out a bouncer to third, first baseman Russell Moldenhauer singled to right field, third baseman Andrew Davis doubled to right-center, right fielder Daniel Bowman hit a ground-rule double to center and second baseman Anderson Hidalgo singled to right.
“We haven’t been getting that many runs lately,” said Berard, who went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs. “We had a real positive talk (with Isom) before today’s game and everyone came to the plate during this game with a good approach and executed very well.
“Since I’m the leadoff — with my speed — I feel I have to get on base any way possible. It starts from the first guy that gets a hit. Everyone wants to execute and do their job after that.”
Every Crushers batter did during the first inning.
The string of hits to start the game was only stopped when designated hitter Ricky Lizcano laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt that scored Bowman and moved Hidalgo to second. Catcher Emmanuel Quiles then singled to left field, center fielder Seth Granger doubled to left and the No. 9 hitter — shortstop Juan Sanchez — hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Quiles with the sixth run.
“I’ve always said that hitting is contagious,” Isom said. “If one guys starts to get hot at the plate, a lot of other guys will follow. Guys were getting comfortable at the plate today. They were getting the pitches they wanted and they were driving them.”
It was a welcome sight for Crushers starting pitcher Trevor Longfellow, who struggled with consistency during the early innings.
Longfellow plunked Freedom leadoff hitter Junior Arrojo — who scored an unearned run in the first inning — threw three wild pitches and walked five in the first four innings. But he only allowed three hits in 6⅓ innings — the last two coming after he had one out in the seventh.
“I think I just needed to take a deep breath out there,” Longfellow said. “Everything seemed a bit out of sync early and I couldn’t seem to get comfortable on the mound.
“So it was nice to get that run production, especially because I was struggling to throw strikes early.”
The Crushers didn’t have another big explosion, but they had plenty of little pops throughout the rest of the game. Moldenhauer hit his first home run of the season to lead off the fourth, Davis hit a solo shot well over the 400-foot sign in center field to lead off the eighth and seven Crushers finished with multihit games.
It was a fantastic show for the season-high crowd of 5,317 — mostly area school children at the game on field trips — which was able to help the Crushers end a four-game skid.
“You seem to have more adrenaline rushing through you when it’s packed in here,” Moldenhauer said. “You know you have more eyes on you and you want to do your job even more than usual.
“Let’s just hope we can have more crowds like that.”
Joe Charboneau, the 1980 American League Rookie of the Year, took in the game and toured the Crushers clubhouse with Isom after the game. Charboneau, who is also the Lorain County Ironmen’s hitting coach, played all three of his major league seasons (1980-82) with the Cleveland Indians.
* The Crushers came into the game fifth (out of 14 teams) in batting average (.261) but 13th in runs scored (31) — one better than last-place Rockford.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.