AVON — The change in managers earlier this week hasn’t provided the spark the Lake Erie Crushers were hoping for. At least not yet.
With the Crushers’ bats failing to generate much offense Thursday night, Lake Erie dropped a 5-1 decision to the Florence Freedom in front of 1,510 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
For the Crushers (17-23, 11-9 at home), the loss brings an end to a forgetful June, when they went 8-18. For the Freedom (15-26), the sweep was their first of the season, and they’ve won six of their last seven games.
After starting the season 8-0 at home, the Crushers are just 3-9, with four losses in a row. They’ve also lost four straight overall heading into a three-game showdown with the 24-18 Evansville Otters over the holiday weekend.
Manager Cameron Roth fell to 0-3 since being hired. However, he feels the team is starting to make some positive strides.
“Their pitcher (Stetson Nelson) did well today. He was commanding pitches in the strike zone,” Roth said. “We just weren’t making adjustments offensively. It was just a tough day at the plate for us overall. We never could seem to string some hits together and generate some positive momentum.”
The Crushers were held to five hits off Nelson (2-3) and relievers Tony Vocca and T.J. Bozeman. Their last hit was a one-out double from Eric Grabe — his sixth of the year — in the sixth, and only a one-out walk issued to Brady North in the ninth prevented 11 straight outs to end the game.
The only run Lake Erie scored came in the third, when No. 9 hitter Parker Norris hit a two-out single, followed by a triple down the right-field line from Brandon Costantino, who went 2-for-4. The Crushers also got two on with one out in the fifth, but failed to score.
Mike Devine (5-2), making his third start of the season, had his longest outing of the year — 62⁄3 innings, with 102 pitches.
“He threw the ball over the plate and threw strikes,” Roth said. “He struck out six and walked out of there giving us a chance to win. He competed and that was something I knew I was gonna get out of him. That’s why we rolled him out there and stuck with him, and why we’ll keep rolling him out there in the future.”
Devine scattered 10 hits and gave up five runs, but only three were earned thanks in part to a disastrous performance by new third baseman Nick Covello.
Not only did Covello go 0-for-4, but he committed all three of the Crushers’ errors. Two of those errors directly led to a pair of two-run innings by Florence in the third and fourth, which put Lake Erie in a 4-1 hole.
“He’s a third baseman, but he’s getting acclimated to game speed in professional baseball, as opposed to college baseball,” Roth said. “That’s something that he’s gonna have to adjust to quickly, but we have faith in him and we have confidence in him and his abilities.”
The Crushers also got strong outings from relievers Jordan McCoy and Keegan Ghidotti, who combined for 21⁄3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball.
“We did a better job today of eliminating the big inning, defensively,” Roth said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to put together the big inning ourselves. That’s something that’s a positive to move forward on.
“We have (Todd) Kibby going (tonight). He’ll be activated off the DL in time to start, so he’ll be ready to rock, and that gives us a chance. We’ll need to make adjustments offensively and get those bats going to give him the support he needs.”