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Finding Their Groove

Brandon Hunley hit one of his team's three home runs on Sunday as the Crabs swept the Menlo Park Legends and improved to 23-10

Crabs take three from Menlo Park Legends
by Erik Fraser/Humboldt Crabs

ARCATA (July 13, 2014) — In the first two games of their series against the Menlo Park Legends, the Crabs needed eighth-inning rallies to pull out narrow victories. Figuring they couldn’t count on being able to score four runs in the eighth every time out, the Crabs took a novel approach in Sunday’s series finale - getting ahead early and staying there.

Brandon Hunley, Brent Gillespie and Taylor Tempel homered to power the offense, and Zach Stone threw seven shutout innings as the Crabs beat the Legends 7-1 to complete the sweep after Friday and Saturday’s come-from-behind wins by scores of 8-6 and 5-4 respectively.

“It was good to get the sweep,” said Manager Tyson Fisher. “We scored some runs, and Stone was pretty good on the mound. Seven innings, no runs, I think he gave up three hits…. We were able to get the sweep against a team that we wanted to get the sweep against.”

After Trent Goodrich singled in EJ Stanton to start the scoring in the third, Hunley went “Freeway Ball” in the fourth. Gillespie hit a two-run blast to right in the sixth. After the Legends scored a run in the top of the eighth to make it 4-1, Tempel squashed any thought of a Menlo Park comeback with a two-run shot of his own in the bottom of the frame.

The Crabs have now won 10 of their past 11, dropping only a 6-3 decision to the Alameda Merchants in the second of two midweek games last week.

“I think our guys are settled in, they’re comfortable with everything now,” said Fisher. “Now they’re just going out and playing each and every day. they know what’s expected of them each and every day, they know what they’re going to get and going to work.

Gillespie for one certainly was comfortable in the batter’s box against the Legends. In addition to his two-run homer on Sunday, Gillespie had provided the big blow in Saturday’s comeback win — a two-out, three-run triple to deep right-center that negated a fine pitching performance by the Legends’ Zachary Gross and propelled the Crabs to a 5-4 victory.

“We’re becoming more of a team,” Gillespie said. “I think we’re bringing it all together. Our pitching staff is excellent and we’re hitting when we need to, with two outs and runners in scoring position.”

The triple capped a three-hit, four-RBI night for Gillespie, who nearly doubled his season RBI output in two games.

“I have a leg kick,” he said, “and I’ve been struggling, leaning forward, not leaning back and that’s messing up my timing, but these last two days I’ve gotten it down in time and I’ve been much more comfortable.”

Friday night’s win came thanks in part to Legends pitcher Tim Willittes suddenly falling out of his comfort zone. Willittes had cruised through the first three innings allowing only an unearned run in the first, but in the fourth it all fell apart. Willittes issued three straight bases-loaded walks to Crabs hitters, giving Humboldt the lead and abruptly ending his night.

Still, the Crabs found themselves trailing 5-4 entering the bottom of the eighth. But Goodrich singled in pinch runner Ansel Cecil to tie the game, and Alex Crosby drove in two more with a single of his own as the Crabs took the lead for good.

Now the team sports a solid 23-10 record as they hit the home stretch of the season, and Fisher is looking to see his squad finish things off strong.

“We’ve got three weeks left, and just because there might not be a league or a tournament at the end, we’ve still got a lot to play for,” he said. “We’ve got a chance to finish thing on a pretty good run of what we’ve been doing, and I think that they’re all bought into it.”

• Watch Crabs Corner every Sunday at 6pm on KIEM News Ch. 3  Sports. This Sunday, Chet Davis interviews Crabs infielders Brandon Hunley, Brent Gillespie, outfielder Taylor Tempel, pitcher Johnny Melero and recruiter Robin Guiver.

• Read up on all the Crabs games from the daily newspaper in town, the Times-Standard.

• View all our photos from the weekend our Facebook page.

• Each week we'll have a new player supplement inside the Crabs program for sale at the ball park with scorecards, new player photos, special events, social media info and a week wrap up story by Erik Fraser. There is also a Crabs Kid's program available that comes with crayons for your little crabbie.

• #Life As A Crab by Leon Villagomez for Humboldt Made blog and photos.