AVON — Stomper celebrated a birthday Sunday afternoon but the Joliet Slammers were the ones who got all the presents from the Crushers.
Lake Erie’s lovable mascot was joined by a number of his mascot friends from local colleges and pro teams but it was a couple of first-inning Lake Erie gifts that led to the Slammers’ 4-2 win at Sprenger Stadium.
Chaz Meadows led off the game with a routine ground ball to Aaron Hill at second but Hill couldn’t pick it up and Meadows was safe at first. After a strikeout, Riley Krane singled to center but when catcher Bryan De La Rosa threw to third trying to nail Meadows, the ball skipped into Lake Erie’s dugout allowing Meadows to score.
Lake Erie never made up that unearned run.
“You put three errors in that third column and it’s 4-2 — that’s ridiculous and that can’t happen,” Crushers manager Cam Roth said. “That’s the ballgame right there.”
Roth felt three errors — two by Hill — were a bit much, considering his team could muster only four hits and two runs off Matt Quintana.
Though Quintana wasn’t particularly fast, he mixed his speeds well and kept the ball on the corners in getting his first win of the year. He struck out seven and walked only two in seven innings. Cody Clark came in for the final two innings to pick up his first save.
“Quintana is a great pitcher,” Roth said. “He’s been throwing the ball well all year but it’s just a thing where we’re still struggling offensively.”
Joliet came to town with just five wins and Lake Erie had to figure it was a chance to make up some ground on front-running Schaumberg. But two losses to the Slammers leaves the Crushers at 11-10 and 2ﾽ games behind the Boomers.
“We’re on a little bit of an off stretch after coming out of the gate pretty well,” said Roth, who believes his team’s struggles at the plate are affecting its fielding.
Joliet scored two more runs in the second inning on a Jose Camacho single, a Ridge Hoopi-Haslam double and Jared Morello’s two-out, two-run single to right.
Lake Erie matched those runs in its half of the inning. Zach Racusin and Jake Vieth drew the only walks allowed by Quintana and Gavin Stupienski, making his first start for the Crushers, singled in Racusin with a single to right.
“It’s nice to be back out here,” Stupienski said. “It felt good. I was able to get a pitch to drive and be able to score that runner on second which is what I was trying to do. We’re just going to keep fighting and grinding. It’s early in the season and there’s a lot of ball left.”
“He missed a bunt sign,” Roth said. “First and second with nobody out. There’s some things he needs to work on. He drove a couple days ago (to get here) and stepped in — caught some bullpen — and finally got him in there. He’s going to be in there more often.”
De La Rosa followed with a sacrifice fly but that was all the runs Lake Erie could get. After James Davison and Steven Kraft singled to start the third inning, Quintana retired 14 of the next 15 hitters he faced. The only Crusher to reach was Davison on a single with one out in the fifth and he was erased trying to steal.
Lake Erie pitchers did well enough to win most games. Left-hander Jake Repavich made his first start after being in the bullpen all year and pitched well, as did Michael Stryffeier and Kent Hasler in relief. Joliet had just eight hits but managed to score a huge insurance run in the top of the ninth to make it a two-run game.
“Repavich, it was a spot-start type deal,” Roth said. “He hasn’t been extended to that length — throwing 72 pitches. (Joliet) stacked the lineup with lefties obviously well before knowing he was pitching. I thought he did a helluva job.”