Story by Andy Barch
Five different Lake Erie hurlers combined for 23 strikeouts against the Wild Things on Saturday night, but it was not enough as the Crushers fell, 2-1, in 15 innings.
The loss for the Crushers, who fell to 39-32, marks the second time that they’ve dropped a series to the Wild Things over the last 10 days. The win for Washington (30-40) was their fourth in their last five games against the Crushers.
Lake Erie remained five games out of first place, however, as Traverse City lost again to Southern Illinois, 4-1. The Miners are now just two games out of first and three games in front of Lake Erie in the Frontier League’s Eastern Division.
On Saturday, offense was very tough to come by for both teams, while the pitching and defense was terrific for both clubs.
Starting pitching was strong once again for the Wild Things as Gary Lee, who faced the Crushers five days earlier, pitched six perfect innings. He had retired 19 batters in a row, until J.C. Figueroa wrecked it with a one out base hit in the seventh.
Not to be outdone, Josh Hungerman started the game for the Crushers and fanned nine batters over six strong innings of work. He allowed just a run on four hits.
The Wild Things scored their first run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Shain Stoner stroked a one out single and made his way to second after Hungerman plunked Jim Vahalik with a pitch. After fanning Brad Agustin, Hungerman allowed a two out single to Michael Bando, which scored Stoner.
Washington’s 1-0 lead held, with Lee sitting the Crushers down consistently. He had retired 21 of 22 batters until Andrew Davis blasted a solo bomb over the wall in right field to tie the game in the top of the eighth inning. It was his seventh of the season.
Davis belted a one out double in the tenth inning, but never got any further than second base, and the Crushers put one more threat together in the 12th inning. Daniel Bowman belted a one out single, then stole second base. Russ Moldenhauer struck out, prompting the Wild Things to intentionally walk Davis. They got out of the inning when Chandler Barnard struck out Kyle Weldon.
The Lake Erie bullpen retired 15 in a row in extra frames until Travis Risser plunked Andrew Heck with one out in the 15th inning. He then hit Stoner with a pitch, putting two on with one out. Jim Vahalik stepped to the plate and hit a ground ball to second.
Figueroa threw to second for the force out, and Davis’ relay throw to first got there a little late. On the play, Heck, who was on second, came around to score the game-winning run.
Hungerman, Mickey Jannis, Jonathan Kountis, Ben Klapfczynski and Travis Risser struck out a combined 23 batters. The staff as a whole allowed just a pair of runs on six hits over 14.2 innings of work. Kountis fanned six, while Klapfczynski fanned seven over three perfect innings of relief.
Alfonso Yevoli (1-1) tossed a pair of perfect innings to score the win, while Risser (4-4) suffered the loss.
The Crushers have been held to just six hits over the first two games of the series. Davis was the only Crusher with a multi-hit game Saturday, registering half of Lake Erie’s hits, going 2-for-4 with the homer and a double.
The Crushers will finish their three game series with the Washington Wild Things at Consol Energy Park Sunday night. Right hander Eric Gonzalez-Diaz (5-6, 4.59) will start for the Crushers, while the Wild Things will counter with left hander Shawn Smith (1-1, 2.32). The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.