AVON — The Jeff Isom Era began like the last two seasons of the John Massarelli Era — with an Opening Day loss.
Trevor Longfellow (0-1) and Jordan Wellander held the Gateway Grizzlies to just four hits, but the Lake Erie Crushers offense couldn’t get anything going offensively until the end.
Two hits in the ninth plated one run, but a Juan Sanchez comebacker stranded the tying run at second, and the Crushers fell to the Grizzlies 3-2 in front of 2,938 fans at All Pro Freight Stadium.
Despite the outcome, Isom couldn’t say enough good things about his new club.
“I’m a little upset with our club because we’re not going to go undefeated this year,” the manager joked. “Seriously, I saw a lot of great things from our club. What a great game. A two-hour, two-minute game to start the season off, great defense on both sides, we ended up getting eight hits, but we just couldn’t come up with the big one.
“I thought it was an outstanding game all-around. I told our guys at the end of the game, ‘If we play this way all year long, we’re going to win quite a few games this year.’ I like the effort everyone brought, and we made things interesting there in the ninth inning.”
Trailing 3-1 going into the ninth, the new-look Crushers tapped into the old ‘Freight Magic,’ and it almost worked.
Andrew Davis, who was responsible for several ninth-inning heroics over the previous four years, led off with a triple into the left-field corner. He went 2-for-4, and his first flyout to right might have been a home run if not for the stiff wind blowing in.
Was Davis thinking triple out of the box?
“Nope,” he said. “I have gotten to the point in my career where I like to stop at second unless I hit a home run. I was rounding second and I saw (the left fielder) didn’t have the ball yet so I kept going.
“I’m pretty confident every time I go up there. Every at-bat is a different at-bat. I try to go into every single at-bat with that approach. I’m thinking about getting a good pitch to hit and driving it.”
Russell Moldenhauer drove in Davis with a flyout to left, and two batters later, new catcher Emmanuel Quiles ripped a double to center on the first pitch to put the tying runner in scoring position.
“I wasn’t aware of ‘Freight Magic,’ but I was hoping for some sort of magic in the ninth inning,” Isom said. “You could sense the crowd getting into it with each big hit, and our guys seemed a little bit more focused. We just need to stay focused from the first inning on so we can get on a pitcher right away.”
Longfellow scattered four hits in seven innings. Back-to-back two-out RBI singles in the top of the third gave Gateway a 2-0 lead.
“I’ll take seven innings of four-hit ball any day of the week,” Isom said. “Unfortunately, we gave up two runs with two outs, and we’ve got to do a better job of keeping the ball down in that situation so we can get out of that with a zero. But, overall, an outstanding effort by Trevor and Wellander tonight.”
Lorain native Antone DeJesus had another big game in front of his home crowd. His leadoff ground-rule double in the third was Gateway’s first hit, and he manufactured his team’s third run in the fifth. He led off with a walk, stole second, took third on a groundout and scored on a grounder to first.
“It’s always good to get your first hit out of the way in your first game,” said DeJesus, who went 1-for-2 with two runs. “It was nice to get something going and get the ‘W,’ and it was great to do it in front of a lot of family and friends.”
Shaker Heights native Gauntlett Eldemire went 3-for-3 with a double, reaching base in all four appearances from the leadoff spot.
Several Browns players, including left tackle Joe Thomas and quarterback Brandon Weeden, watched the game. They signed several autographs while sitting at a terrace table on the right-field side before being moved to a suite by the Crushers, where they watched the rest of the game.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grizzlies 3, Crushers 2
Gateway Lake Erie
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Johnson 2b 4 0 0 1 Eldemire cf 3 0 3 0
McClendon 3b 4 1 1 1 Lizcano dh 4 0 0 0
Flores lf 4 0 1 1 Davis 3b 4 2 2 0
Hernandez c 3 0 1 0 Moldenhauer 1b 3 0 0 1
Butler dh 4 0 0 0 Bowman rf 4 0 1 1
Myers rf 4 0 0 0 Quiles c 4 0 2 0
Frias ss 3 0 0 0 Granger pr 0 0 0 0
DeJesus cf 2 2 1 0 Sanchez ss 4 0 0 0
Guthrie 1b 3 0 0 0 Figueroa 2b 3 0 0 0
Berard lf 3 0 0 0
Totals 31 3 4 3 Totals 32 2 9 2
Gateway 002 010 000 — 3 4 0
Lake Erie 000 100 001 — 2 8 0
LOB —Gateway 3, Lake Erie 5. DP — Gateway 1. 2B — Hernandez (1), DeJesus (1), Eldemire (1), Davis (1), Quiles (1), Moldenhauer (1). 3B — Davis (1). RBI — Johnson (1), McClendon (1), Flores (1), Moldenhauer (1), Bowman (1). SB — McClendon (1), DeJesus (1). CS — Eldemire (1). SAC — Quiles. SF — Moldenhauer.
Gateway Ip h r er bb k
Brown (W, 1-0) 8 6 1 1 1 3
Barrett (S, 1) 1 2 1 1 0 0
Lake Erie Ip h r er bb k
Longfellow (L, 0-1) 7 4 3 3 2 5
Wellander 2 0 0 0 0 1
WP — Longfellow (1). T — 2:02. A — 2,938.