TRAVERSE CITY — Forget about home plate or third base, even second base seemed like a mirage to the Lake Erie Crushers on Tuesday night.
Nobody in the Crushers lineup was able to get beyond first, shut down for six innings by Traverse City starter Mike Devine and over the final three innings by reliever Matt Miller in a 5-0 victory at Wuerfel Park that gave the Beach Bums a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five Frontier League Division playoff series.
“I didn’t even realize that,” said Devine, when told that first base was the farthest on the base paths the Crushers were able to get in Game 3. “Sometimes you like to work with guys on second. It was nice working ahead without guys on base.”
Devine allowed four hits, walked none and struck out six. Each of the hits he allowed were singles. Two of those runners were left stranded on first, one was caught stealing by Beach Bums catcher Marcus Nidiffer and two were thrown out on the way to second — the result of two Beach Bums’ double plays.
“He threw exceptionally well,” said Beach Bums manager Gregg Langbehn. “He never had a runner reach second base. That’s hard to do. They’re such a good team.
“He’s pitched better at the right time of the year, no doubt about it. His last two starts have kind of been what we’ve been waiting for all year. I told him after the outing, he threw his pitches with more conviction.”
Devine provided a favorable sign of what was to come when he struck out five of the first seven batters he faced. He wasn’t able to continue at that pace, but he was in control of the game the entire time.
“I think it was a big boost just trying to get into the game and throw strikes,” said Devine. “I was just trying to get the ball over the plate and let the defense work and good things happened. I felt normal. Just try to come with the same approach, fill it up and make them earn their way on.”