AVON — Longtime Lake Erie Crushers fans know all about “Freight Magic.”
That’s when the home team makes things happen in the late innings to come away with a thrilling win.
Wednesday night, the Crushers tapped into some of that old “Freight Magic,” rallying from a 3-0 seventh-inning deficit to down the CornBelters 4-3 in 10 innings.
Catcher Emmanuel Quiles’ one-out, bases-loaded single up the middle scored pinch runner Kevin Berard with the winning run in front of 2,043 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
“There’s a little more energy out there in those situations, that’s for sure,” Crushers manager Jeff Isom said. “It does come from the fans. Once the fans start getting louder, the guys start locking in and they feel that excitement. Their at-bats definitely do get better and it puts pressure on their pitchers as well.
“We’ve got confidence one through nine in our lineup, and games like this are fun. I like to have these close games, especially when we’re winning. Our guys seem to really pick it up for those late innings, and they’ve certainly been doing so lately.”
The Crushers are riding their first three-game winning streak since June 6-8, improving to 13-16, 7-7 at The Freight. It’s also the first time the Crushers have won back-to-back games at home since winning three in a row May 29-31.
Quiles, who went 3-for-5, also drove in the game-tying run in the bottom of the eighth on a two-out single up the middle after Daniel Bowman beat out a fielder’s choice grounder and stole second.
“I look for one particular pitch,” Quiles said of his big hit in the 10th. “With one out, I knew he was going to throw me a breaking ball. I saw the first one was down, and I expected another one. He left it up in the zone and I put a good swing on it.”
Quiles made a deer antler gesture after both hits, followed by a gesture of shooting an arrow into the air.
“(Anderson) Hidalgo, from Venezuela, likes to do those sorts of things after big hits,” he said. “He told me in the dugout, ‘If you get a base hit to drive in the tying and winning runs, you can do something fun like me.’ So that was what I came up with for Hidalgo.”
Hidalgo started off the 10th with an infield single off losing pitcher Mitch Mormann (2-2). Andrew Davis, who had his
18-game hitting streak ended, followed with a walk. They advanced into scoring position on Russell Moldenhauer’s sacrifice bunt, and Jacob Liedka intentionally walked Bowman to load the bases.
Facing new pitcher Alan Oaks, Quiles took a strike before drilling the next pitch up the middle, setting off a big celebration at first base and raising his average to .333.
“Things have turned around for Emmanuel lately,” Isom said. “It’s good to see him in those RBI situations driving in those runs, especially when the game’s on the line. He’s done a great job of changing his approach (and) changing his mind-set. His swings are a lot better.”
Starter Matt Smith struggled, giving up three runs on seven hits in six innings. Two of the hits were home runs by Patrick McKenna (his third of the series) and T.J. Gavlik. However, relievers Doug Shields, Brad Duffy and Mickey Jannis (1-0) combined for four innings of scoreless, no-hit ball to keep the CornBelters at bay while giving the offense a chance to make some magic happen.
“I thought the tale of this game was the way our bullpen came in and put up zeroes,” Isom said. “That’s where we’ve been struggling in the past.”
Duffy struck out three in two innings, while Jannis picked up his first Crushers win of the season with a scoreless 10th.
The Crushers sent eight men to the plate in the bottom of the seventh to start their game-winning rally. Moldenhauer led off with a double and scored on Bowman’s RBI single, and Bowman scored on a two-out bases-loaded walk to Max Casper, ending starter Drew Province’s evening and cutting the deficit to 3-2.
“I thought their pitcher threw the ball really well,” Isom said. “We got two in the seventh before we ran him out of there, and I thought that was the key part of the game. Just getting a couple of runs there and getting to their bullpen because he did throw very well tonight.
“We got to their bullpen and made some things happen. We keep swinging some hot bats, and tonight, we finally got them going late, which was good to see.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Lake Erie vs. Normal (Ill.)
WHERE: All Pro Freight Stadium, Avon
RADIO: WEOL 930-AM