Baseball: ThunderBolts edge Frontier Greys 2-1
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media August 7, 2013 9:52PM
Updated: September 9, 2013 2:51PM
Knuckleballer Joe Zeller gave the Windy City ThunderBolts fits Wednesday night, but two of the T-Bolts’ veterans found a way to provide just enough offense late.
Chad Cregar had a huge double in the seventh inning before Mike Torres provided the game-winning two-base hit in the eighth as the T-Bolts won a 2-1 nail-biter over the Frontier Greys at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood.
Zeller struck out seven in 72/3 innings. He allowed four hits and walked just one, but it was a big one.
With the game tied at 1, Jayce Ray drew a leadoff free pass in the bottom of the eighth. After Chase Tucker bunted him to second and an Evan Button groundout moved him to third, Torres’ two-out liner down the left-field line gave Windy City (31-39) the lead for good.
“There was no way to adjust, really,” Torres said. “(Zeller) was throwing one knuckleball for strike one, then he had another one that was diving down and away. It was tough. I just was looking for one out and up that I could get the barrel of the bat on. He threw one that looked right, and luckily, it stayed fair.”
Michael Click, who has not allowed a run since June 19, increased his scoreless innings streak to 191/3 with a spotless ninth for his 16th save in 17 chances.
“I just try to attack the zone and not be afraid of contact,” Click said. “It was fun watching the pitching battle. In the bullpen, we thought whoever scored the first run would win, but fortunately, we turned it around.”
The T-Bolts won for the first time against the league’s travelling team. The Greys (26-44) swept them three straight in May.
Zeller (7-7) and Windy City’s Daniel Cropper — who allowed one run on four hits in seven innings, striking out six — each took shutouts into the seventh before the Greys scored with consecutive two-out hits, including Mark Micowski’s RBI single.
Windy City struck back in the bottom of the frame as Cregar, who struck out in his prior two at-bats, doubled to deep center. He moved to third on Zach Aakhus’ groundout and scored on Kyle Robinson’s sacrifice fly.
“We talked about seeing the pitch up and attacking it,” T-Bolts manager Ron Biga said. “Any time you can hit a knuckleball hard, it’s going to go far. Chad put a great swing on it.”
Cropper took a perfect game into the sixth, an attempt kept alive despite a couple liners off him, including one that went off his feet and directly to first baseman Button for the out.
On the final out of the fifth, J.J. Muse appeared to line a hard single to right, but Andrew Brauer — known for his great arm — charged the ball and threw out Muse at first.
“Andrew made a great play,” Cropper said. “That really kept the momentum going for us.
“This game was big for my confidence, and it definitely helps everyone else’s, too.”
Markus Solbach (2-0) pitched a perfect eighth for the win.