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Lake Erie Crushers

Frontier League baseball: Otters pitcher Austin Nicely treats Crushers rudely

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AVON — Nicely done.

What else could the Lake Erie Crushers say after the performance Evansville left-hander Austin Nicely turned in Saturday night?

Nicely entered the game with a robust double-digit ERA and with opponents hitting over .400 against him but he allowed just three hits in seven shutout innings to hand the Crushers a 7-3 loss.

The Crushers scored all three of their runs in the bottom of the ninth off reliever Chris Cepeda.

With the loss, the Crushers (18-17) fell 1ᄑ games behind Schaumburg in the Eastern Division of the Frontier League. Evansville (21-16) trails Florence by 3ᄑ in the Western Division.

“He had a 12ᄑ ERA coming in and he almost had as many walks as innings pitched,” Lake Erie manager Cam Roth said of Nicely. “He threw the ball well. He was able to throw the fastball over the plate a lot and whenever he got into some jams, he was able to bear down and get out of it.”

Lake Erie left the bases loaded in the first inning and hit into two double plays to stop other scoring opportunities.

Aaron Hill singled to start the second inning but was erased on a tailor-made double play grounder to short by Bryan DeLaRosa. Steven Kraft led off the fifth with a hit but was doubled up on Zach Racusin’s line out to first base.

“Our energy was flat,” Roth said. “Terrible, we were flat from innings one through nine. Looking at the splits and everything like that, we stacked the righties in there giving us a pretty good chance to win. You think you’re doing the right thing and sometimes it backfires.”

It didn’t help that the Crushers gift-wrapped a couple of runs. Racusin took a bad route on Mike Rizzitello’s line drive that went for a double to start a three-run third inning. Starting pitcher Dylan Mouzakes uncorked a wild pitch to bring in one run and DeLaRosa threw wild trying to nail Ryan Long stealing third to score another.

Evansville tacked on two runs in the fourth, helped by a Jake Vieth error at first and ninth hitter J.J. Gould’s two-run, two-out single. The Otters scored two more in the ninth on three hits to open a 7-0 lead.

Lake Erie just couldn’t generate any offense until it was way too late. The Crushers put together a modest three-run rally in the ninth when Vieth and Emmanuel Marrero singled to start things off. After Sebastion Diaz struck out, Hill doubled to center, driving in two to break up the shutout. Hill then scored on Bodie Bryan’s two-out single but Steven Kraft’s hard liner was caught by Ryan Long at third base to end the game.

Hill remains optimistic in spite of the loss.

“As a team, the past week or so, we’ve all been swinging the bat really well,” he said. “I know things didn’t fall for us when that first guy (Nicely) was in there but it kind of says where we are as a team — we keep fighting no matter what and keep putting good at-bats together.

“(Nicely) just missed the barrel. Not a lot of us hit the ball on the barrel a lot and when we did it was right at somebody or didn’t find a hole.”

Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or timothygeb@msn.com.

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