By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse City Beach Bums were seven outs away from their second-ever trip to the Frontier League Championship Series on Wednesday.
Then Lake Erie’s bats emerged from its postseason slumber.
The Crushers shut out in two of the first three games of the Divisional Series, torched the Beach Bums bullpen for 12 runs in the last three innings to beat Traverse City 13-3 in Game 4 at Wuerfel Park.
It was a wild turn of events for a game in which the Beach Bums seemed to have total control, leading 3-1 after a solid outing from starter Jake Sabol, who scattered six hits and struck out seven in six innings.
“I don’t think we’ve put up 13 runs in the last month all together,” said Lake Erie manager Jeff Isom, laughing. “Guys responded. We ended up getting that big hit from Andrew Davis and things kept snowballing. They say hitting is contagious. Guys jumped on that bandwagon and they started to hit the ball. Good timing for that.”
Good timing indeed.
Chris Squires relieved Sabol in the seventh, and after Squires allowed a lead-off double to Max Casper, he retired the next two batters. But before he could get out of the inning Squires walked Seth Granger and allowed an RBI single to Daniel Bowman that made it a one-run game. Traverse City brought in left-handed closer Nick Capito to try and quell the rally, but Capito walked Anderson Hidalgo to load the bases and Davis followed with a grand slam that gave Lake Erie a 6-3 advantage — its first lead since its Game 2 victory.
Capito got out of the inning two batters later, but experienced more trouble in the eighth when he allowed four more runs, coming on two-run homers from Craig Hertler and Bowman.
“All of the sudden we saw an opening in the door and we took advantage of it,” said Isom. “It’s tough when you play from behind. The Beach Bums have a great bullpen. You see what they’ve done all season long and you think, ‘oh, boy.’ We took advantage of a couple mistakes, a walk here and there and ended up scoring some runs.”
Isom admitted his was concerned when Squires was replaced by Capito, who had only allowed five runs in 63 innings this season.
“We know what he’s capable of doing,” Isom said of Capito. “We’ve seen him when he’s been in action and doing very well. You get a guy like that on the mound and you get a little nervous, but he left a couple balls up and we took advantage of it.”
Jacob Clem worked the last 1.2 innings for Traverse City, but gave up three runs in the ninth as the Crushers continued to pour it on.
The loss was stunning for Traverse City, but Beach Bums first baseman Chase Burch thinks his team can rebound.
“Frustrated we didn’t close it down, for sure,” said Burch. “Hopefully we’re leaving tonight, get some rest and get ready for another dogfight tomorrow.
“We’ve just got to battle back. I think we’re all professional enough, if we’re ready. Luckily, we’ve got (Scott) Dunn on the mound. We’ve got to come out and get him some run support and put them away early.”
Burch and Jose Vargas certainly did their part to put Traverse City in position to win. Those two had a hand in driving in all three Traverse City runs, with Burch singling home Carlo Testa in the first inning and clubbing a solo home run in the sixth. Vargas also slugged a solo home run, his coming in the third, putting Traverse City ahead 2-1 after Lake Erie had tied it in the second on back-to-back doubles from Russell Moldenhauer and Juan Sanchez.
Burch and Vargas have accounted for five of Traverse City’s seven home runs in the series. Wednesday’s long balls came off Lake Erie starter Micky Jannis, who allowed six hits and struck out seven in six innings. Connor Whelan, Jordan Wellander and Dale Dickerson finished off the game for the Crushers, holding the Beach Bums to one hit the rest of the way.