Traverse City Record-Eagle

Beach Bums

September 3, 2011

Banes to pitch tonight as TC eyes the clincher

Nathanson set to pitch Sunday

TRAVERSE CITY — This weekend’s series between Traverse City and Lake Erie is a sort of Frontier League duel.

Two teams enter and one team leaves.

Actually, if Traverse City wins the series, they’ll both leave, as the Bums will head to Joliet for the start of the playoffs.

“Lately, the team has really come together,” said Traverse City pitcher Bryan Banes, who will start tonight’s contest at Wuerfel Park. “We’ve been hitting well and pitching well. We’ve molded as a team.”

The Beach Bums can wrap up a playoff berth with a win tonight. A Lake Erie win makes Sunday’s contest do-or-die for both teams.

David Nathanson is scheduled to pitch Sunday.

“We were in a couple playoff races when I was here (before),” Nathanson said. “You can’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s nice to be able to play at home. We can’t try to do anything more than what we’ve been trying to do lately. Our backs have been up against the wall for over a week now. It’s really helped us.”

Banes will technically pitch on two days rest, but he only went one-third of an inning in Wednesday’s 10-6 loss to Rockford. It was his shortest stint of the year, even less than his brief one-inning appearance in the Frontier League All-Star Game.

“It was just sort of like a short bullpen I threw,” Banes said. “My arm feels good. Everything just went wrong. It happens. “

Interestingly, Thursday’s 11-9 win over Rockford didn’t mean a thing in the standings. Once the Crushers were shut out by Washington a little earlier in the evening, regardless of the result of TC’s game, each team needs to take two of three in this series to advance.

So once Lake Erie’s game went final, the Beach Bums took starter Scott Dunn out and went deep into their bullpen the rest of the way.

“We got to take Dunn out,” Nathanson said. “We took him out of the game so he didn’t rack up too many pitches. … It was a more relaxed atmosphere.”

Dunn could come out of the bullpen today or Sunday, if needed.

“We’d all rather that it not come down to Sunday,” Nathanson said. “But if it does, I’ll be ready.”

One player TC hopes to avoid as much as possible in this series is Lake Erie shortstop Andrew Davis, who was second in the Frontier League in hitting (.338) and RBIs (86) entering the series.

“Andrew Davis is kind of the guy,” Nathanson said. “Our game plan is not to let him beat us. He’s one of the better hitters in the league. He doesn’t get fooled a whole lot and gets a lot of good swings.”

Davis also has 12 home runs and 39 doubles, which is tops in the league, ahead of TC’s Jose Vargas (28).

“They like to bunt,” Banes said. “They don’t have a lot of power, but they execute well. So basically, you keep the ball down and change pitch selection, keep the lead-off man off base and we’ll do pretty well as a team.”

Banes said Wuerfel Park’s expansive outfield is a benefit to Traverse City, even the Bums have more power on their team than the Crushers. Only Davis has more than a half dozen homers, while the Bums have five hitters with more round-trippers than Davis.

“I think it favors us,” Banes said. “We know how to play here, compared to their park. Theirs is a different turf than ours. It’s kind of roughed up. The ball has bad hops and kind of carries there. Ours is smooth and if you’re a ground-ball pitcher, you’ll live long in this ballpark.”

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