TRAVERSE CITY — Remarkably, it only took a few days for Traverse City to make its recent six-game skid seem like a distant memory.
The Beach Bums were able to erase the sting of last week’s struggles by sweeping Normal, with the third and final win coming with a 6-1 victory at Wuerfel Park.
Jake Sabol threw seven innings of shutout ball and seven of the nine batters in Traverse City’s lineup collected at least one hit as the Beach Bums kept the pressure on first place Lake Erie. The Crushers hold a slim one-game lead over Traverse City (50-37) in the East Division. Traverse City also leads the chase for the wild card.
“It was good to bounce back from a rough road trip and get this sweep,” said Beach Bums’ first baseman Chase Burch. “It’s been a pretty crazy season. It’s flown by. It could’ve gone one way or the other and hopefully we’ve made it go in the exact opposite direction, following the right path and keep it going from here on out.”
Burch led a potent Traverse City attack that slugged 11 hits. Burch singled, doubled and tripled, while driving in two runs. Jose Vargas and Chris Cowell added two hits each.
“I was seeing the ball pretty well until they brought in the guy (reliever Benjamin Weil) throwing (sidearm) from the bottom of the turf,” said Burch. “Unfortunately, he got me out, but I got a couple of good pitches to hit and luckily I didn’t miss them today. Luckily the left fielder didn’t make a great catch on my first one and the sun helped me out a bit on my second one.”
Burch’s second hit, his third triple of the season, came after Normal right fielder Rogelio Noris lost track of the ball in a blinding sun. The hit drove in Vargas to give Traverse City a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Burch scored moments later on a sacrifice ground out by Zach Kometani. Burch’s third hit of the night — a double — was the third in a succession of four straight hits for Traverse City to start the fifth inning. The Beach Bums plated three runs in that inning to build their lead to 6-0.
A six-run lead was more than enough for Traverse City starter Jake Sabol (9-5), who scattered six hits, walked none and struck out five. He never faced more than four hitters in any of his innings.
“Given the conditions, with the wind blowing out, I thought he did a great job keeping the ball down,” said Traverse City manager Gregg Langbehn. “Even the balls they hit they didn’t square them up well, not enough to get them out. He pitched great. He pitched to contact. His pitch count was good. I toyed with the idea of letting him go back out (in the eighth). He threw mid-80s (pitch count). I thought that was enough.”
Langbehn turned to his bullpen for the final two innings, bringing in Jacob Clem. While Clem did allow a run in the ninth, he walked none and struck out three.
For Sabol, the win was his fourth straight start without a loss and ninth in his last 10 starts. In late June Sabol dropped three consecutive starts as he was roughed up by Schaumburg, Normal and River City.
“He’s turned it around,” said Langbehn. “He had a little bit of a rough stretch there, but he’s getting better.”
The Beach Bums continue their home stand on Tuesday against Washington.