AVON — Lake Erie Crushers manager Chris Mongiardo hopes Andrew Davis’ return to form will put his team on the right track.
Davis, who has missed 22 games with an elbow injury this season, started an eight-run rally in the fifth inning with his first home run of the year as the
Crushers moved one game over .500 with an 11-7 win over the Washington Wild Things at All Pro Freight Stadium.
After the Wild Things took a 6-0 lead with five unearned runs off Lake Erie starter Zac Treece, the Crushers (20-19) countered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Leading off the bottom of the fifth, Davis slammed a 1-2 change-up over the wall in left off Washington starter Zac Fuesser to open the Crushers’ scoring and spark a rally that would put them in the lead.
Victor Mejia followed Davis’ homer by hitting the first pitch he saw over 420 feet to left-center for his fourth home run of the season, cutting the Washington lead to 6-4.
The next five Lake Erie batters also reached before Adam Ford gave the team its first lead of the game with a sacrifice fly to right.
Mejia closed the scoring in the inning with an RBI double to put the Crushers up 10-6.
Lake Erie sent 13 batters to the plate in the inning, scored eight runs on seven hits and forced Washington to use three pitchers.
Mongiardo said it all started with Davis.
“That was a big home run and kicked everything off,” he said. “I’ve never seen the guy hit a meaningless home run. All his home runs last year weren’t game-winners but they were always a big part of the game. After he hits, everyone follows him.”
Davis is the team leader in career home runs with 55. He led the team with 17 last season.
“When you have a veteran like Davis on your team popping one out it gives a big spark to the team,” Mejia said. “It means something to the younger guys like me.”
The Lake Erie bullpen was another reason the team was able to salvage a win in the three-game series after dropping the first two. Five relievers combined to allow just one run and three hits in five innings.
Ryan Connelly, who was acquired in a trade from Joliet on Saturday, gave up no runs and just one hit in two innings for his first win of the season.
“Treece didn’t really throw that bad, the game just kind of blew up on him,” Mongiardo said. “Connelly came in and that’s why I wanted to get Connelly … to come in and settle down situations. He did a great job. The thing about Connelly is that he knows how to pitch. You go back to his numbers at Coastal
Carolina, they’re pretty good.
“When I saw him against us he went right through us. I like him. That’s how he pitches. All I can say is that I like him. He changes his arm angle and things like that. … He just knows what he’s doing.”
Washington right fielder Scott Kalamar drove in five runs, including a grand slam in the second inning. It was his first professional home run.
Mejia, who drove in four and ended up a triple short of the cycle, was robbed of his second home run when center fielder Daniel Poma reached well above the top of the fence in left-center to pull in a long drive.
“I just took it pitch by pitch, at-bat by at-bat,” Mejia said. “I’m never usually searching for anything big. I just see the ball and hit the ball.”
Zach LeBarron gave up two runs, one earned, and did not record an out in the fifth to get tagged with his first loss of the season. Despite the loss, Washington (24-15) remained in first place in the Frontier League’s East Division.
“It was a big win,” Mongiardo said. “To come back like that and get the win after we lost two games — one where we blew a save and another where we really weren’t in the game. We didn’t play well early but bounced back. It was a good win.
“That home run by Davis … the guy has always been like that and the other guys feed off him. He’s good like that.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
WHO: Lake Erie Crushers vs. Rockford Aviators
WHEN: Tuesday, 8:05 p.m.
WHERE: Aviators Stadium, Loves Park, Ill.
PITCHERS: Jannis (2-3, 5.50 ERA) vs. TBD