Crouse, Grier Homer in Dogs Decisive Victory
By Jack Ankony, the Chicago Dogs
Ryan Haug didn’t let a two-strike count dictate his at-bat.
Fighting to do anything he could to reach first base, Haug drove the ball up the middle for a single, igniting the Dogs’ offense in the eighth inning. Brennan Metzger executed a textbook bunt to advance Haug to second base as the Dogs clung to a 2-1 lead.
Michael Crouse waited on a first-pitch breaking ball and punched it over the right field wall to grab a 4-1 lead. Crouse was greeted with ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ chants as he high fived his way down the dugout steps.
“In a close game, that’s definitely going to get the fellas riled up,” Haug said. “That was awesome.”
After striking out 14 times through seven innings, the Dogs finally hit their stride in the eighth. Anfernee Grier blasted a two-run moonshot into the night sky to cement a 6-1 Dogs victory over the Houston Apollos.
Crouse now has a hit in 15 of his last 16 games and recently made an adjustment with Dogs hitting coach Joe Dominiak. Crouse is focusing on keeping his hands quiet at the plate in an effort to cut down on what he calls “jumping at the ball.”
Crouse and Grier provided the power on Saturday while Crouse inched closer to Grier in the stolen base column. Crouse stole his 18th base of the season on Saturday, and Grier is second in the league with 20.
“I would love for both of us to kind of take over the league leader and see where we end up at the end of the year,” Crouse said.
The eighth inning explosion came with a deep exhale from the Dogs after managing just two hits through seven innings. Houston starter Abdallah Aris had his best stuff on Saturday, frustrating Dogs hitters for 6.1 innings.
Crouse and Haug both noticed late life on Aris’ fastball, which he often elevated to fan 14 hitters on Friday. Aris was pulled with one out in the seventh inning, and the Dogs saw this as an opportunity to blow the game open
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a relief, but it’s like, ‘Okay, [Aris] did a good job, but let’s not let this next guy come in and do the same thing,’” Crouse said.
Four insurance runs in the eighth inning secured the Dogs’ third consecutive win, but it was defensive execution in crucial moments that made the difference. Houston used a single and three walks in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead, but Haug quickly ended the threat.
Haug noticed Yeiler Peguero leaning towards second base, signaled to K.C. Hobson and picked Peguero off at first base to end the first inning. With two outs in the top of the fifth inning, Haug popped to his feet and threw a strike to Harrison Smith at second base to catch Jordan Pontious stealing.
“When anyone goes, I want to throw every guy out,” Haug said.
Jase Dalton tossed 3.1 scoreless innings to continue an impressive start to his professional career, but exited in the seventh leaving behind a precarious situation. Brendan Smith relieved Dalton with one out and the bases loaded and had to wiggle his way out of a jam.
Smith hopped off the mound to calmly field a comebacker and deliver a firm toss to Haug at home for the inning’s second out. Smith got Pontious to chase an outside slider and pumped his chest as he walked off the mound.
Cam Booser and Jeff Kinley kept the bases clean in the eighth and ninth inning to shut down any plans of a Houston comeback. The Dogs will now aim to sweep the series as AJ Jones toes the rubber at 3:05.