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Steve Hagen turns in strong start to help Crushers down Miners, end five-game losing skid

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    Crushers starter Steve Hagen had a big hand in Lake Erie defeating the Southern illinois Miners on Wednesday to snap a five-game losing streak.

    KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

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    Crushers pitcher Steve Hagen (21) is met on the mound by catcher Bryan De La Rosa (30) after throwing a high and inside pitch to a Southern Illinois Miners' batter on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 3.

    KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

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    Crushers' center fielder Connor Oliver (8) lines up to catch a pop fly hit on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 3.

    KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

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    Crushers shortstop Eric Grabe (9) fields a hard-hit ball on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 3 during a game against the Southern Illinois Miners.

    KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

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    Crushers' left fielder Sean Hurley (15) fields a ground ball on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 3.

    KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

AVON — Steve Hagen provided just the right tonic for the ailing Lake Erie Crushers on a hot, sultry Wednesday afternoon at All Pro Freight Stadium.

21060731

Crushers starter Steve Hagen had a big hand in Lake Erie defeating the Southern illinois Miners on Wednesday to snap a five-game losing streak.

KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE Enlarge

Hagen tossed 4 2⁄3 innings of perfect baseball and 7 1⁄3 overall to lead the Crushers to a 4-3 win over West Division-leading Southern Illinois (45-22) to snap a five-game skid.

“I had some of my stuff working early on, especially the fastball,” Hagen said.

“It makes it a lot easier when you can work off the fastball and to have the defense working behind me really well. With (Eric) Grabe and (Max) Casper, it makes it a lot easier to pitch.”

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Crushers shortstop Eric Grabe (9) fields a hard-hit ball on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 3 during a game against the Southern Illinois Miners.

KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE Enlarge

Grabe and Casper accounted for six assists behind Hagen, who evened his mark at 4-4 and kept his ERA at a solid 3.24. Hagen held the hot-hitting Miners (45-22) to just one run through seven innings before tiring. Josh Laxer and Chandler Jagodzinski came on to close out the win by retiring the final four hitters. It was Jagodzinski’s his eighth save.

What also made it easier for Hagen was getting three runs in the first inning.

Robb Paller led off with a walk and Sean Hurley stroked a double down the first-base line. Connor Oliver scored Paller with a hit to right and Hurley scored on a wild pitch with Oliver moving to third. Jose Barraza’s groundball to the right side scored Oliver to give Hagen a comfortable three-run cushion.

“Run support you definitely can’t trade in for anything,” Hagen said. “It was really nice working with a lead. You can be a little more aggressive throwing early on and trusting your defense. It makes it so much easier to pitch.”

Lake Erie (30-37) played errorless ball and even when the Miners strung together a few hits in the eighth inning off Hagen, the damage was limited. Southern Illinois was forced to play station-to-station on the bases due to some quick fielding and good throws from the outfield.

Southern Illinois scored in the fifth when Steve Marino tripled down the first-base line and scored on Riley Moore’s single — the first two hits off Hagen, who retired the first batters he faced. He fanned six through six innings.

Lake Erie got that run back in the bottom of the sixth on singles by Sean Hurley and Barraza and Grabe’s ground-rule double.

Hagen labored in the eighth inning, allowing three hits and a walk that had the Miners within a run with two out. Laxer walked the first man he faced to load the bases but induced Marino to ground out to Grabe to end the threat.

“Steven Hagen did an excellent job, especially coming off a rough start in River City,” Crushers manager Cameron Roth said. “The only difference, realistically, was he kept the ball down. He mixed in more of a curveball as opposed to a slider. He got a lot of swings and misses. His change-up was lights out.”

Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or timothygeb@msn.com. Follow him on Twitter @Gebby67.

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