AVON — This one was just brutal.
Following some close losses during a difficult eight-game stretch, the Crushers allowed Sunday’s game to get away before it really began.
Greg Hendrix (0-2), making his first start of the season, was tattooed for a six-run first and eight runs in two innings, and the Crushers ended their season series with the Frontier League-leading Southern Illinois Miners with a 15-4 loss in front of 2,009 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
The Crushers (7-14) have lost four in a row and eight of nine. The Miners (15-6) wound up 6-0 against the Crushers in 2011.
“It’s a long year,” Crushers manager John Massarelli said. “You go through ups and downs and face adversity. You’ve just got to battle through. That’s what the good teams do.
“Every team’s going to go through adversity at some point in the year. We’re hitting it right now. We just need to keep working hard and overcome it and stay positive. If we do that, wins will start coming.”
Massarelli was evasive in his praise for the Miners, who outscored the Crushers 24-7 in the three-game sweep.
“They’re OK,” he said.
Hendrix, who came into the game with the third-best ERA on Lake Erie (1.64), left his first start with his ERA bloated to 5.54. He had given up only two runs in 11 relief innings prior to Sunday.
Some of the runs charged to Hendrix should have been docked to third baseman Andrew Davis for a missed tag that loomed large.
The Miners avoided potential disaster in the first inning after loading the bases with nobody out. Cleanup hitter Matt Fields hit a grounder up the middle and rookie shortstop Adam Gliebe made a great diving stop to force the runner at second.
Josh Womack was caught between third and home and it appeared Lake Erie would catch a break with a game-changing double play. However, Davis made a poor attempt to tag out Womack, and he slid safely into third.
That loomed large when Nate Hall followed with a single up the middle that scored Womack and Fields to make it 3-0 before Lake Erie picked up a bat.
It got worse.
“You’ll have to ask (Davis) about that,” Massarelli said. Davis wasn’t immediately available in the clubhouse following the game.
With two runners, Will Block hit a grounder that Gliebe booted into left field for an error. Hall scored to make it 4-0.
Following a strikeout, Hendrix gave up a deep double to right by No. 9 hitter Kenji Sakaguchi that scored two to make it 6-0.
All told, Southern Illinois sent up 10 men, had four hits, reached on an error and scored six runs (four earned). Only one of the balls hit was in the air.
“It was (Hendrix’s) first pro start,” Massarelli said. “He struggled. He struggled with strike one.”
Massarelli said this wasn’t a spot start and that he’d give Hendrix another chance to start.
The Crushers finally took advantage of some Miner miscues in the third to score two runs. Following three straight singles to load the bases off Shawn Joy (2-2), which snapped a string of seven consecutive batters retired to start the game, catcher Trey Manz was charged with a passed ball that scored Zac Messer with Lake Erie’s first run.
Manz’s throw to the plate sailed into the infield, allowing Gliebe to score to make it 8-2. Scott Houin, however, was caught too far off of second.
The Crushers added one more in the fourth on an RBI double by Kyle Shaffer. That’s as close as they got.
The Miners added three runs in the fifth and seventh innings and one more in the eighth off relievers Andrew Berger and Brad Mountain.
One bright spot was the pitching performance of Davis. Given the ball in the ninth to save the Crushers bullpen from further taxing, Davis retired the side in order, including a strikeout looking by Sean Coughlin.
“He always bugs me about wanting to pitch,” Massarelli said.
Davis, who pitched a scoreless inning last season in a similar situation, has a career ERA of 0.00 with two strikeouts and no hits allowed.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.