BY DENNIS CHASE email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Scott Dunn proved to be an escape artist Wednesday night.
The righthander repeatedly pitched out of trouble in Traverse City’s 3-0 Frontier League win over Southern Illinois at Wuerfel Park.
Dunn put 10 batters on base in his 5.2-inning stint — stranding seven runners in the first three innings — in raising his unblemished record to 13-0.
“He wasn’t quite as efficient, but he worked through it,” Beach Bums manager Gregg Langbehn said. “He made quality pitches when they had runners on base. That’s what he does. He competes. I’m OK with that. He worked through it. That’s the bottom line.”
It was an important win, considering Southern Illinois was coming off a 5-1 homestand and had pulled to within a game of the Beach Bums in the East Division. Traverse City had lost five of its last six games.
“We consider ourselves the best team in the league, but we know we have to buckle down now and separate ourselves from the competition,” outfielder Matt Howard said.
Howard, the team’s hottest hitter as of late, was instrumental in Wednesday’s outcome. He hit the first offering he saw from Southern Illinois starter Cody Hall for a home run in the second inning. It was a liner into the breeze.
“It’s a tough place to hit a ball out,” Howard said. “But if you hit it good you can get it out.”
Traverse City added solo runs in the fifth and sixth innings. With two out in the fifth, Andrew Heck doubled and Zach Kometani singled to make it 2-0. In the sixth, Howard drew a one-out walk and scampered home on a Sean Gusrang double.
“I thought we were productive with what we did tonight,” Langbehn said. “There wasn’t a lot going in. It (game) was dominated by pitching.”
Matt Miller, Chris Squires and Nick Capito came out of the bullpen to slam the door on the Miners, pitching 3.1 innings of shutout relief.
Southern Illinois outhit the Beach Bums 8-7. Former Traverse City shortstop Andrew Cohn had two hits and a walk for the Miners.
The Beach Bums were shorthanded as catcher Marcus Nidiffer (sick) and third baseman Jose Vargas (injury) were not available.
“We’re in the same position we were earlier in the season,” Langbehn said. “The other guys have to step up. We’ve got to play through it and find a way to win.”
Howard is one who has stepped up, now that he’s seeing extended playing time. In his last seven starts prior to Wednesday, he was hitting .462.
“I’ve been trying to stay ready,” he said. “I always knew I could do it. Now, I’m just trying to roll with it.”
Lake Erie split a doubleheader with Florence on Wednesday to move into a second-place tie with Southern Illinois, two games off the pace. Florence is two and a half back.
Traverse City at 41-29 has the second best record in the league.
“We only have 26 left,” Langbehn said. “Every game matters. It’s probably going to take 55 wins to get in (playoffs). That’s kind of the benchmark every year.”
Traverse City will try to get another win closer to that mark tonight when the series resumes. Johnny Omahen (5-7, 3.60) takes the mound for Traverse City, Blake Nation (8-2, 2.38) for Southern Illinois.