TRAVERSE CITY — Pitching was the difference between Traverse City and Lake Erie on Friday night.
While the Beach Bums got a good start out of Mike Devine and a solid relief effort from Burny Mitchem, Lake Erie’s four hurlers struggled with walks as Traverse City took a 7-3 victory in front of a season-high 4,833 fans at Wuerfel Park.
Devine (2-1) pitched a perfect game through the first four innings and ended up allowing three hits, walking two and striking out a career-high seven in 5.1 innings. Mitchem came on in the sixth and, though he let one inherited runner to score, he held the Crushers to no hits in his 3.2 innings of work.
“Start with Devine first. That was encouraging,” said Traverse City manager Gregg Langbehn. “He’s had some outings, we’re trying to get him through that fifth and sixth innings. He was awesome, threw sharp. Maybe the extended offensive innings for us cut into his rhythm a bit, I don’t know. He’s had a few starts where he’s had five innings and that’s it. One other time he went into the sixth. He was sharper earlier. His secondary pitches were better. Burny was awesome. He kept his pitch count down. It’s nice because he’s got a starter’s background so we can extend him when we’ve needed him. He’s been a big part of the success of our bullpen. They’ve been really good.”
Lake Erie starter Alex Kaminsky struggled with control early and, along with the next two pitchers that entered the game for the Crushers, combined for six walks. Kaminsky’s control issues led to Traverse City’s first two runs as he walked Matt Howard and D’Marcus Ingram back-to-back with the bases loaded.
“If you’re gonna play against a club like Traverse City, you can’t give up that many walks and that’s where we got ourselves in trouble,” said Lake Erie manager Jeff Isom. “You can’t give them free passes. You’ve got to make them put the ball in play. When we did make them put the ball in play they hit the ball hard off our starter. You’ve just got to make quality pitches, get ahead of hitters. It makes it a lot easier, that’s for sure.”
The Beach Bums (23-14) led 4-0 after four innings, getting a run in the third on a triple by Chase Burch and an RBI single from Carlo Testa, then tacking on another run in the fourth as Marcus Nidiffer doubled and Ryan Still knocked him in with a one-out single.
Lake Erie didn’t get runner on base until Andrew Davis walked to start the fifth. Russell Moldenhauer’s double put runners in scoring position and they both came home on back-to-back sacrifices. Devine was pulled in the sixth after he allowed two straight singles. Mitchem replaced Devine and the Crushers (17-19) made it a 4-3 game when Juan Sachez scored from third on a putout at first by Burch, but that was all they would generate off Mitchem.
“Nidiffer did a good job behind the plate calling pitches so I was just throwing what he was calling, getting outs,” said Mitchem, who walked one and fanned two. “The goal for the day was to get ahead of hitters and I did a good job of doing that. When you’re pitching with the lead you just go out there and throw strikes and let them hit the ball, so that’s what I was trying to do.”
Traverse City, meanwhile, put the game away with a three-run sixth, highlighted by a two-run single from Sean Gusrang.
“They broke the game open there,” said Isom. “That kind of deflated us, took the wind out of our sails. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get anything going late.
“Mitchem threw the ball very well. He throws that split and if you’re not going to lay off of it, take those for balls, you’re going to put yourself in a hole and that’s what we did there. He did an excellent job of mixing his fastball and his split up and we didn’t have an answer for him.”
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Beach Bums.
“Tonight was especially important for us to forget about the last two days,” said Langbehn. “We benefitted from some free passes. We’ve been pretty disciplined. It’s just about getting on base and producing runs. You got to eliminate the losses, the extended streaks in this league because it’s only 96 games. You’ve got to put an end to it quickly.”
Kyle Teague will try for his first win of the season when he takes the mound tonight for Traverse City. Dave Middendorf (5-2) is the scheduled starter for Lake Erie.