AVON — Lake Erie’s Jared Koenig continued his dominating ways Saturday.
The Crushers’ ace turned out seven strikeouts in six innings and the bullpen preserved a 7-0 win over the Joliet Slammers at Sprenger Stadium.
Despite striking out the first two batters he faced, Koenig said he struggled with his command early.
“I was getting behind, but by the third or fourth inning it kind of clicked,” Koenig said. “I was able to pound the zone, get ahead and got some swings and misses and balls in play.”
The effort allowed the Crushers to maintain a two-game lead in the Frontier League East Division, improving to 40-35. The lead could improve pending the result of Schaumburg’s game Saturday, which was not complete at presstime. Joliet fell to 10 games behind the Crushers in the division at 31-46.
As for Koenig, he improved to 7-1. The lefty entered Saturday with a 2.38 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 75.2 innings. He faced 21 batters and only faced more than four in an inning once. He retired the side in order three times, and in the third only faced three batters thanks to a double play.
Kent Hasler took over in the seventh, allowing just one walk with six strikeouts.
“For him to come in and stay locked in during a 7-0 game is huge,” Lake Erie manager Cam Roth said. “His goal was not necessarily to pitch to the scoreboard, but go out and attack hitters. You have to do that on all levels, whether it’s here or on TV, you have to know how to pitch with a lead and stay locked in. He’s only a rookie, too, so for him to be able to do that is refreshing to see.”
The Crushers offense got a boost in the third thanks to a Joliet miscue. Steven Kraft came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs and grounded to third for what would have been a routine out, but Harrison Bragg couldn’t haul it in, allowing two runs to score.
Lake Erie broke things open in the fifth after Slammers starter Tyler Jones hit Bryan De La Rosa and Brody Wofford on back-to-back pitches. Aaron Hill drove in De La Rosa with a liner into center and Emmanuel Marrero cleared the bases with a double to right.
Dale Burdick gave the Crushers some more cushion in the eighth with a two-run home run.
“I just saw good pitches to hit and made strong swings,” Marrero said. “I try to be consistent every day and today we did it. It’s good to see guys doing a good job and getting a lot of runs.”
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @CSweeneyCT on Twitter.