AVON — The frantic, unusual ending was absolutely fitting for the game.
The Lake Erie Crushers, after going 11 innings without a run, picked up the victory Sunday on a walk-off passed ball.
Aaron Hill scored from third to end a 12-inning pitching-fest and give Lake Erie a 1-0 win over the Windy City ThunderBolts.
The Crushers won the rubber game of the series and improved to 2-1 after the first weekend of play.
“Overall this was just a sound baseball game from both teams,” Crushers manager Cam Roth said. “It was a hard-fought game and we had to really earn this one.”
After three hours of pitching and defensive dominance, the Crushers finally broke through in the 12th inning.
Hill started the inning at second base because of the international tiebreaker rule. Sebastian Diaz then executed a perfect sacrifice bunt, and was safe at first on a single when the third baseman hesitated.
Dale Burdick was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Chris Washington threw a passed ball on the next pitch, allowing Hill to easily score.
“I knew I was bunting before my at-bat so I just had to get it down,” Diaz said. “It was great that we were able to find a way to get a win in such a tough game.”
Diaz also came up with a couple of big defensive plays at third base.
He made a diving catch to end a threat in extra innings and also made a great play on a bunt attempt earlier in the game.
“I’m pretty athletic, which helped me make some plays,” Diaz said. “You always want to stay ready and just do whatever it takes to get the win.”
Lake Erie starter Pat Ledet got a bit of revenge against the team he played for the last few years.
He pitched six strong innings, allowing just two hits while striking out five. He was never in serious trouble and made hay by throwing strikes early and often in the count.
“Winning this game felt especially good going against my old team and it brought an extra element,” Ledet said. “I just pitched the way I know how and tried not to do too much.”
Defense was the key to the Crushers’ success. Lake Erie went all 12 innings without an error and saved numerous hits with spectacular plays.
It allowed the pitchers to pound the strike zone and throw freely.
“It is awesome to have the confidence that my defense is gonna make the play any time the ball is hit,” Ledet said. “I know they all have my back.”
The Crushers also got big contributions from their bullpen.
Once Ledet exited after six innings, four relievers combined to hold the ThunderBolts scoreless for the final six innings.
Tanner Thomas and Augie Gallardo each pitched two innings, and Seth Lucio and Kent Hasler chipped in an inning apiece.
“Hats off to our bullpen,” Roth said. “They were struggling a little bit this weekend but they showed a lot of improvement today.”
Zach Racusin had the only extra-base hit in the game with a double in the bottom of the seventh.
Lake Erie will welcome Southern Illinois for a three-game series starting Tuesday morning.