AVON — Lake Erie manager Cam Roth didn’t mince words after Saturday’s controversial ending at Sprenger Stadium.
“That’s the worst umpire I’ve ever seen in this league since 2012,” Roth said of Sal Giacomantonio after a 5-4 loss to Southern Illinois. “(Dale Burdick) was safe, 100 percent. He was out of position to make the call behind the catcher so I don’t know how he could see the call No. 1, plus the runner — Burdick — beat the ball there by about a step and a half or two. It was blatantly apparent safe. That leaves a runner on second base (and a chance to win).”
Instead, it was the Crushers’ fifth loss in six games and put them below the .500 mark for the first time all year at 12-13, 3½ games behind front-running Schaumburg in the East Division of the Frontier League. The Miners are 14-11 and just 1½ behind West Division-leading River City.
With two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Lake Erie’s Jake Vieth lined what appeared to be a bases-clearing, tying double into the corner in right field, but the home plate umpire called Burdick out as he slid in trying to avoid the tag of catcher Arturo Nieto to put an end to the Crushers’ comeback bid.
“I’m not taking anything away from the umpires — it’s a big moment there at the end,” Burdick said. “I personally thought I got in.”
Roth didn’t like that the game even came down to the call.
“That’s not the total game,” he said. “We shouldn’t have been no-hit for seven innings. I can’t put the blame on one call. We had nine innings to win a baseball game and we tried to do it in one.”
Roth was right. Until piecing together the ninth-inning rally, Lake Erie’s bats remained quiet. The Crushers struck out 15 times and only through poor fielding and eight walks by Southern Illinois did they manage to fight back for a chance to win.
Down 3-0, Bodie Bryan broke up the no-hit bid in the seventh inning after starter Nick Stroud finally departed after six walks and nine strikeouts. Stroud had thrown 113 pitches — by far his high-water mark for the year.
With Aaron Hill on first base after a walk that ended Stroud’s day, Bryan sent a sinking liner to left that Jonathan Pryor tried to catch on an ill-advised dive, but the ball skipped past him, allowing Hill to score and Bryan to take third. Heath Renz struck out James Davison to leave Bryan there.
The Miners pushed across two huge runs in the eighth on two walks, a single and three wild pitches to lead 5-1.
Hill struck out to start the ninth, but Bryan DeLaRosa singled off shortstop Bryant Flete’s glove to get things started. Bryan grounded into a forceout and advanced to second when Flete’s throw to first wound up in the seats. Davison ripped an RBI single to close the deficit to 5-2, and the fun was just about to begin.
Steven Kraft hit a routine grounder to third, but Alex Santana airmailed the throw into the same seats as Flete had. Burdick drew a walk to load the bases for Vieth.
“That was awesome,” Vieth said of his double. “We kept fighting. It didn’t start out like we wanted it to but stayed in the game and kept grinding it out. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”
The Crushers can only hope the last inning carries over to this afternoon’s game with the Miners.
“We took advantage of those walks they gave us,” Burdick said. “That last inning it was next man up, not trying to do too much. I think we’ll have the momentum coming in (today).”