AVON — All started well for new Crushers manager Cameron Roth.
But things turned ugly quickly in the seventh inning.
The Florence Freedom scored seven runs, all with two outs, to beat the Crushers 8-3 and spoil Roth’s managerial debut Tuesday at All Pro Freight Stadium.
“Obviously I was a little nervous and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t,” said Roth, who was named the fourth manager in the franchise’s eight-year history Monday after Chris Mongiardo was fired after two-plus seasons. “It was good. I thought the guys jelled well. The staff worked well together and I thought we put all the pieces together in play. It was exciting to go out there and make the moves and work with the guys. We’ll be back at it tomorrow and I’m excited for what this team brings and what I saw tonight.”
The Crushers fell to 17-21 in losing for the 12th time in their last 16 games. Florence, which has the worst record in the league, improved to 13-26.
Both teams’ starting pitchers were virtually unhittable through the first five innings, but Florence finally found a crack in Jordan Kraus’ game. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.
Travis Weaver sent a slow grounder to third that Eric Grabe tried to field with his bare hand but couldn’t. Weaver, who was credited with a hit, then stole second and scored on Taylor Oldham’s two-out double.
Kraus walked Austin Newell, but stopped the bleeding by getting Andrew Godbold to fly out to deep right.
The Freedom eventually broke the game open in the seventh. Weaver sent a chopper over second base to give Florence runners on the corners with two outs for Andre Mercurio, who delivered an RBI single over second base.
“Later in the game I was still getting ahead of those hitters but they were just finding the holes with two strikes,” Kraus said. “That’s how it goes sometimes, unfortunately, but I’ve got to make the adjustment for next time then.”
That ended Kraus’ night. Connor Reed came in, but Weaver scored on a wild pitch and Daniel Fraga walked. Oldham made Reed pay with a triple to deep left, driving in two more. Newell sent a grounder into right to drive in another to make the score 6-0.
The damage continued as Godbold sent a grounder into right and Richard Seigel drove both in two more with a double deep down the first-base line.
“Kraus threw the ball really well,” Roth said. “He showed a lot of charisma and poise out there even when things were going wrong. Reed was the right move coming in there. We had a lot of confidence in him. He just let a couple of balls up and when you do that things have a better margin for success offensively.”
The Crushers had their chances early, but couldn’t deliver the go-ahead hit. Jose Barraza delivered a two-out double in the first but nothing came of it.
Brady North sent a shot up the middle to start the second, only to see the next three batters go down by strikeout, flyout and groundout.
Justin Byrd connected on a double to deep right with one out in the third, but neither Brendan Costantino nor Barraza could bring him home.
“It was just one of those days where we couldn’t get the bats going,” Barraza said. “That’s just part of the game. You’re not going to be hot every day, but we’ll be back tomorrow and we’ll get the ball in play.”
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @CSweeneyCT on Twitter.
WHO: Lake Erie Crushers vs. Florence Freedom
WHERE: All Pro Freight Stadium, Avon
PITCHERS: Sinibaldi (0-1, 6.75 ERA) vs. Gooding (2-4, 4.21)