AVON — The Lake Erie Crushers game Tuesday night was so long, it didn’t end until Wednesday morning.
A 12-minute rain delay was only the tip of the iceberg in a marathon game with the Southern Illinois Miners that lasted 17 innings – the longest game ever at All Pro Freight Stadium and in Crushers’ history. Both teams combined to leave 39 batters on base -- the Crushers 17 and the Miners 22 -- and the teams didn’t score a run for eight innings. And the teams combined for 33 hits, 32 strikeouts and 19 walks.
But five hours and 47 minutes after the game started at 7:06 p.m., the “Avon Marathon” came to a halt when No. 9 hitter Juan Sanchez had the biggest hit of the 33 – a two-out RBI single up the middle that scored Russell Moldenhauer from third to give the Crushers a 5-4 win in front of what had been a crowd of 2,952.
By the time the game came to an end at 12:53 a.m., approximately 100 of those nearly 3,000 in attendance were left cheering on the Crushers. And the kicker is the teams have to come back at 11:05 a.m. for the rubber match.
“No. 1, our bullpen was outstanding,” Crushers manager Jeff Isom said. “They pitched 14 innings and allowed nine hits and only one run, which is fantastic. Without that bullpen, this game wouldn’t have been this way. All of those guys continue to pitch well for us.
“We had opportunities again and finally cashed in late. It was an exciting game, and I’m glad we were on the winning side of it. I’m proud of our guys for never giving up and fighting until the bitter end.”
Moldenhauer drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the 17th and took second on a single by Emmanuel Quiles, who was erased on a fielder’s choice grounder by Kevin Berard. But Berard just beat the relay to keep the inning alive for Sanchez, who became the hero.
“It gets frustrating as the game goes on and leave that many on base,” Isom said. “You look for someone to step up in that situation and deliver. But that was on both sides tonight. What we’re seeing is some pretty good pitchers going against us. Early on, we had a lot of opportunities we should have cashed in but didn’t do it.
“We put ourselves in a situation where we had to scrap across some runs against their bullpen, which is pretty darn good. If you don’t have a lead going into the sixth or seventh inning against them, you’re going to run into some problems. But we also have a very good bullpen, which is why you saw so many guys left on base tonight.”
Vermilion grad Adam Beach (1-0) struggled in his second start of the season, lasting onlygoing three innings and giving up three runs on seven hits with three walks. Beach walked in the first run after walking the bases loaded in the first, and was touched up for two more after giving up four hits in the third. RBI singles by Phil Butler and Cannon Lester made it a 3-2 lead.
“He left some balls up and got himself in trouble, especially with two outs,” Isom said. “Two of the three runs he gave up were with two outs. One thing we talk about in professional baseball is pitching to contact, and he got ahead of some guys but tried too hard to make that perfect pitch and it cost him. He’s got to trust his guys behind him that they will make plays.
“It’s going to be some time with him, and we’re willing to wait it out because we see a quality arm there. We just have to teach him how to pitch professionally.”
The Crushers answered the run Beach allowed in the first with two in the bottom of the inning. Craig Hertler led off with a double, followed by back-to-back singles by Seth Granger and Daniel Bowman. Davis followed with a one-out single -- his first hit in a 4-for-6 night that included two singles, a double, a triple and an RBI -- and Moldenhauer delivered an RBI single to make it a 2-1 lead.
It stayed 3-2 until the bottom of the seventh inning. Granger led off with a single, was bunted to second by Bowman and took third on a groundout by Anderson Hidalgo.
Davis, on a 3-1 pitch, drilled one right over the first-base bag and into the Miners’ bullpen. Granger scored to tie the game and Davis, who had cruised into second, scrambled to third when the Miners couldn’t come up with the baseball and wound up with an RBI triple.
Miners first baseman Gerardo Avila argued with the umpires that the ball was foul and was promptly ejected by home plate umpire Jeremy Stangelo. However, reliever Pete Perez got Moldenhauer to fly out to left to end the inning.
After eight straight scoreless innings, the teams finally found some offense.
The Crushers’ best chance before the 16th was in the 12th, when Davis and Moldenhauer had back-to-back two-out singles. But reliever Wes Alsup coaxed a flyout to center by Quiles to keep it tied at 3.
In the 16th, the Miners put a run on the board off relievers Connor Whelan and Brad Duffy. Whelan walked the first two hitters before getting the hook. Cory Harrilchak bunted the runners into scoring position, and Phil Butler followed with a sacrifice fly to right to give the Miners a 4-3 lead.
Suddenly, after three innings without a hit and only one batter reaching base, the Crushers' bats came to life in the bottom of the 16th. Sanchez led off with a walk, was bunted to second by Hertler and scored the tying run on Granger's ingle to center.
Granger stole second and Bowman followed with a deep fly to left field. Former Crusher Jereme Milons, who made several great plays during the game, went back to the wall, jumped up and made the catch, saving the winning run from scoring. Hidalgo grounded out meekly to second to extend the game to the record-breaking 17th inning.
The Miners loaded the bases against Duffy in the top of the 17th on a one-out double by Milons and two two-out walks. After going 3-0 to Jason Ganek, Duffy rallied with two strikes and coaxed a comebacker to end the threat, setting the stage for Sanchez’s heroics.
“In this game, it’s funny that you can have a terrible day all game long and suddenly you can become the hero and come up with the big hit,” Isom said. “You can put everything behind you and be mentally ready to go when the guys are in scoring position.
“One thing Juan does consistently is give us solid defense, so anything he gives us offensively is a plus. He goes out there on a nightly basis and he’s saving runs, giving us defensive RBIs. Tonight, he gave us the biggest offensive RBI of them all.”
- Legendary Cavaliers play-by-play voice Joe Tait paid his annual visit to a Crushers game, sitting with WEOL’s Tim Alcorn and Crushers’ play-by-play voice Andy “Bull” Barch in the radio booth for the first four innings. His wife Jean also made the trip and watched the game from the press box.
- The Crushers made the release of pitcher Ben Klafczynski official and signed infielder Wes Meadows, a first-year rookie. The Morral native played at Otterbein. Meadows was the designated hitter Tuesday night and went 0-for-6.
- WHO: Lake Erie vs. Southern Illinois
- TIME: 11:05 a.m.
- WHERE: All Pro Freight Stadium, Avon
- RADIO: WEOL 930-AM
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.