May 23, 2024

Baseball – A Game of Inches – Favors Windy City as Crushers Drop Series on the Road

Crestwood, IL – A full moonish, type baseball game in Windy City as the Thunderbolts (7-6) took the final game of the three game series from the Lake Erie Crushers (8-4) in a sudden death game – the final score 7-6, but the ThunderBolts emerging victorious.

The Crushers were playing behind all game on Wednesday, so C Alfredo Gonzalez made sure Lake Erie had a lead before Windy City could even do anything about it. Gonzalez launched a no-doubt, 2-run homer in the top of the 1st inning to get the Crushers on the board. Naturally, as it would come to be, Windy City’s Ozinga Field is situated in a way that Gonzalez’ second homer of the year likely landed at the front door of Wrigley Field (a mere 20 miles away).

Crushers LHP Darrien Ragins would make his first start of the 2024 season, coming off the IL on Thursday. Ragins would go 4 IP, giving up 3 R (2 ER) on 3 H with 2 BB and 2 K.

The Thunderbolts would benefit from some poor defense by the Crushers in the bottom of the 3rd inning as Alfredo Gonzalez failed to tag home plate on a force out, leading to the first two runs of the game for Windy City. They would notch one more on a sacrifice fly to take a 3-2 lead after three innings.

The Crushers would tie the game 3-3 in the top of the 5th with a deep fly ball to center field by 2B Ethan Skender, scoring SS Jarrod Watkins on an RBI triple.

RHP Christian Scafidi and LHP Kenny Pierson came in relief of Darrien Ragins, with Pierson getting a huge K in the 7th to strand the go-ahead run at second base.

In the bottom of the 8th inning, Pierson would run into some trouble as DH Christian Kuzemka hit a fly ball to center field that just barely glanced off the glove of CF Sean Cheely – inches away from an ESPN Top 10 Play. Kuzemka would sit at third base to lead off the inning.

Pierson would come back with a strikeout, but moments later Windy City C Gabriel Bersing would ground a ball to Jarrod Watkins at short. The diving sprawl by Watkins and a throw home was late – Windy City would take a 4-3 lead into the 9th inning.

Down a run in the 9th, LF Ronald Washington crushed a ball to left field that missed clearing the wall by maybe a foot. He stood at second base with one out.

Then, the chaos ensued.

3B Logan Thomason worked a long at-bat, then saw ball four, which skipped in the dirt to allow Washington to take third base. The very next pitch skipped past Windy City C Bersing, allowing Washington to score the tying run.

Jarrod Watkins would scamper home on another passed ball to take the lead for Lake Erie. A pitching/catching breakdown by Windy City.

Crushers closer RHP Trevor Kuncl would come on for the save leading 5-4 in the 9th, but would give up back to back singles before a safety squeeze bunt by RF Thomas Rodriguez would allow LF Jaylen Hubbard to score the tying run. The score 5-5 after 9 innings. This would send Lake Erie into their first extra inning game of the 2024 season.

The first pitch in the top of the 10th with Sean Cheely the automatic runner on second base was sent deep into the gap in left center field by RF Burle Dixon. Thomas Rodriguez got leather on the deep fly, but couldn’t come up with the ball, allowing Cheely to score, putting Lake Erie up 6-5.

Trevor Kuncl would come back out in the 10th for his second inning of work, trying to earn a win. Windy City’s (POS) Joe Johnson hit a ball to left field through the wind that just barely eluded the glove of Ronald Washington, tying the game 6-6 with Johnson standing at second base with one out.

Kuncl would bear down to get a strikeout, then a ground ball in the infield. 2B Ethan Skender booted the soft grounder, kicking away from him almost all the way to third base with Johnson trying to score. In a quick motion, Skender slid to retrieve the ball and threw a strike to Gonzalez at home to cut down the winning run, the score 6-6 heading into sudden death.

In the Frontier League, a sudden death rule is enforced where the home team chooses whether to hit or defend. A runner begins the inning on 1st base, if the home team elects to defend, they must keep the runner from scoring in the inning. If they elect to hit, they must score the man from 1st base before the inning concludes.

Windy City elected to defend. Jack Harris began the inning at first base for Lake Erie.

ThunderBolts RHP Jack Mahoney struck out Alfredo Gonzalez, then got a couple flyouts from Ronald Washington and Logan Thomason to end the wild series clincher. Final score 7-6 with favor to Windy City.

Madness incarnate, as baseball proved, once again, why it is truly a game of inches.

Lake Erie drops its first series of the 2024 season. They head on the road to play the Frontier League West standings leading Schaumburg Boomers. Game one of the series set for Friday at 7:30pm EST.

Score by Innings 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 R H E
Lake Erie Crushers 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 1 0 6 7 1
Windy City ThunderBolts 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 7 10 1


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