AVON — With just a little under a month left in the season, this year is playing out a lot like last year for the Lake Erie Crushers.
In other words, get ready for plenty of big games in August.
The Crushers entered Friday night tied for first with the Schaumburg Boomers in the Frontier League’s East Division, but fell 4-3 to the River City Rascals at Sprenger Stadium.
Lake Erie (37-31) was once again right there late, but couldn’t pull out the win this time.
Li Kalawaia provided the fatal blow, an RBI single in the top of the eighth that broke a 3-3 tie.
That erased a strong start for the Crushers, who scored three runs in the second inning. Jake Vieth had the key hit, ripping a ball that looked to easily clear the fences only to have the wind knock it down.
He settled for a double off the center-field wall and two RBIs. Then with two outs Dre Hubbard drove in Vieth with a single to cap off the big inning.
“The wind is just something we laugh about at this point,” Vieth said. “We’ve all hit the balls that we think ‘that’s gotta be gone.’ It’s not really something we think about, but it doesn’t really change anything for us.”
Crushers starter Jake Repavich pitched well through adversity, only tripping up in the first and fourth innings. Repavich pitched out of trouble in three of the six innings he worked, stranding seven runners, including escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth inning.
“It was a huge confidence builder more than anything,” Repavich said who struggled against River City (39-32) earlier in the week.
“After that last outing, it was pretty tough just going to work. This one is in the past. It’s in the books now so we’re going to work towards next Thursday against Evansville.”
“His last outing was against River City and he did not throw well,” Crushers manager Cam Roth said of Repavich. “I think we had to pull him in the third which is not typical for him. He’s making adjustments. He’s obviously still a rookie so you have to be lenient with him. You talk to any big league pitcher and they’re going to tell you that they’ll have 25 starts and have their ace stuff for five of them and they might lose one or two of those. They have to learn to pitch with their B and C stuff for 20 starts.”
Lake Erie was hurt on defense, committing several miscues miscues in the fourth inning and a mishandling a routine fly ball in the sixth. Repavich pitched around the problems and the Crushers didn’t suffer from the self-inflicted wounds, but the miscommunication was a concern.
“Brody Wofford (Friday night’s third baseman) typically is playing outfield,” Roth said. “He’s played a good third base for us. Experience is the teacher. I can deal with physical mistakes, but I can’t deal with mental mistakes. If we can minimize the little mistakes, we can be fine.”
“I think there’s something to be said for working out of jams and executing under pressure,” Repavich said.
Roth spoke before the season about Lake Erie’s struggles to capture the last playoff spot in a tight race last season, stressing a lack of focus during the month of August.
“We’ve missed playoff chances by a game and half a game,” he said. “I think this year we’ve done a good job zeroing in on our roles. The championship teams I’ve been on, that’s what those guys do. Pitching and defense is going to win. We’ve been doing a really good job so far this season on pitching.”
“I think right now, we’re in a pretty good spot,” Vieth said. “We’ve been progressing and that’s all there is to it. I think if we keep doing that, it looks pretty promising.”