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Sports

CornBelters 5, Crushers 4: Big game from Parker Norris not enough for Lake Erie

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AVON — The essence of baseball is the individual matchup, the pitcher-versus-batter conflict, which drives all the action of the game. And yet it is also a team game, where the total combined efforts of these individual encounters decide the outcome.

At All Pro Freight Stadium on Saturday night, the Lake Erie Crushers didn’t have quite enough Parker Norris to match the Normal CornBelters in a 5-4 loss.

Norris, the Crushers’ rookie outfielder, did pretty much all the damage for Lake Erie, as he went 3-for-4 with a stolen base, and drove in all of his team’s runs. The only other Lake Erie position player with more than one hit was third baseman Eric Grabe, who was 2-for-4 with a stolen base.

“I just stuck to my approach, looked for fastballs and laying off spinners,” Norris said. “They came inside on a lot of first pitches … change-ups. We had lot of runners on today, we could have scored. We have to cut down on the strikeouts.”

Lake Erie left seven on base on a night when Normal starter Chris Carmain was increasingly in control after giving up two runs in the second inning. Carmain seemed to get more comfortable as the game progressed, striking out seven in his seven innings of work, while issuing no walks. At one point, he retired 11 in a row as Crushers hitters got behind in the count and chased pitches out of the zone.

“Carmain is one of the best pitchers in the league and has been for however long he’s been in the league,” Crushers manager Cameron Roth said. “Just like last night, it’s always going to be a battle with those guys (the Normal pitching staff), if they are pitching against the Crushers or the Yankees. Those guys are smart pitchers.

“We have to do a better job offensively, early in the game. We can’t wait until the seventh inning. We have to have competitive at-bats, smart at-bats and a competitive approach one through nine, not just seven through nine. We aren’t covering fastballs early in the count, waiting three or four pitches, it’s not going to be a hitter’s pitch.”

Lake Erie made it close by rallying in the bottom of the ninth when Norris drove in the final run to make it 5-4 against reliever Race Parmenter. But Parmenter stepped up and stranded the tying run by striking out the next two hitters to record the save.

The loss was Lake Erie’s third straight and comes on the heels of Friday night’s 7-1 loss to Normal. It dropped the Crushers to 27-30, 21⁄2 games back in the Frontier East Division. For the Cornbelters, the win takes them to a similar

28-31 record in the much stronger West Division, where they are 13 1⁄2 games behind leader Southern Illinois.

The bump in the road hasn’t fazed Norris, who expects the Crushers to heat up as the summer does.

“There’s plenty of time, a lot of season left,” Norris said. “We haven’t even got into a groove yet. The chemistry is there. We’ve just got to get it together. We have plenty of time.”

Contact Fred Steiner at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.

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