AVON — Crushers manager Chris Mongiardo has never been shy about singing the praises of his bullpen.
He could have performed an entire concert Thursday night after what was essentially his bullpen held the East Division-leading Washington Wild Things to just three hits in a 2-1 win at All Pro Freight Stadium.
Zac Treece (1-0), making his first start of the year after 14 relief appearances, combined with relievers Brandon Smith and Trevor Longfellow on the three-hitter.
Meanwhile, the Crushers offense got all the runs it would need on a two-out, two-run broken-bat single by rookie Matt Dickason in the bottom of the sixth.
The win for the Crushers (15-15) marked the first time in nine days they won consecutive games, while the loss for the Wild Things (19-11) was their first series loss on the road since being swept in Florence on opening weekend. It was also the Crushers’ first series win in two weeks.
“I thought we did a nice job out of the bullpen tonight,” Mongiardo said. “Smith came in and did a nice job for two innings, and Trevor came in and really pounded the strike zone and got himself a save. Treece threw the ball pretty good today. Treece is pretty good. I like Treece out there — starting, relieving, it doesn’t matter.
“Whether Treece pitched good tonight or not, he’s definitely good enough to be in our rotation for sure. It’s just a matter of where he’s gonna help out more — in the rotation or in the bullpen. We’ll see how these next few games play out.”
With the release of Roberto Padilla and Jose Rosario prior to the series, Mongiardo had to adjust his rotation and decided to give Treece the nod in a big rubber match.
Treece, who bears a resemblance to former Detroit Tigers legend Mark “The Bird” Fydrich, gave up a leadoff double to Daniel Poma but retired the next seven hitters.
His own fielding error on a one-out comebacker by Scott Kalamar in the third led to the only run the Crushers allowed. No. 9 hitter Sam Montgomery, who hit a one-out single, stole second and took third on the error, scored on C.J. Beatty’s sacrifice fly to left, putting the Wild Things ahead 1-0.
Treece settled down and allowed only one more hit in his final three innings. Other than a dropped fly ball by center fielder Craig Hertler for an error in the seventh, Smith and Longfellow retired nine of the 10 batters they faced.
The Crushers’ first 19 batters all put the ball in play off Washington starter Scott Dunn (2-2), who was one of the best pitchers in the league last season for Traverse City. However, only five of them fell in for hits and Dunn was able to keep Lake Erie off the board through five.
Anderson Hidalgo, Wednesday night’s hero, struck out with the bases loaded in the fifth to thwart the Crushers’ first real chance. And after loading the bases on three consecutive hits with no outs in the sixth, Dunn looked like he might be able to pull off a high-wire act and escape.
Andrew Davis, Vincent Mejia — who went 3-for-4 to cap off a 6-for-12 series — and Emmanuel Quiles each had singles. Davis was held at third on Quiles’ shallow hit to load the bases. But Dunn coaxed a fielder’s choice groundout to third from Ryan Hutchison, which forced Davis at the plate. He then struck out Michael Failoni.
But Dickason, batting ninth, capped a 4-for-10 homestand with his Texas Leaguer that just eluded a diving Beatty in left. The ball got past Beatty, which allowed Mejia and Quiles to score to give the Crushers a 2-1 lead.
“(Dickason’s) aggressive up there, and that’s the way you’ve got to be,” Mongiardo said.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Lake Erie Crushers vs. Traverse City Beach Bums
WHERE: Wuerfel Park, Traverse City, Mich.
PITCHERS: Kibby (0-0, 2.46 ERA) vs. Phillips (0-1, 5.87)