Crouse Construction's semipro baseball team won a pitching duel Thursday night, but it left the team wondering where all the big bats went.
In the 4-1 victory over the Pro Jersey Maulers at Thomas Run Park, Crouse managed just five hits.
Rick Lester provided the game-winner, blasting a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Lester's shot followed Mike Hughes' RBI double.
Last year, Crouse averaged 10 hits and nine runs a game en route to a second-place finish in the Northern Division of the Maryland Semi-Pro Baseball League.
This season, the team picked up where it left off easily beating several early season opponents with the 10-run rule, but the offensive punch has dwindled in the last week or so.
"We looked too good too early and it hurt us," said first baseman Tom Mistysyn, who leads Crouse with a .574 batting average. "We rely on getting lots of hits and lots of stolen bases, and we're not getting as many hits right now."
One setback came when three players were signed to minor-league contracts and left Crouse last week. The team lost one of its biggest hitters and last year's most valuable player Tom Schmidt, who was drafted by the expansion Colorado Rockies of the National League.
But Crouse (18-2) still has some big hitters, even though their power hasn't been on display this week.
"We've got to get our bats going," said Crouse Construction manager Johnny Hughes. "Our pitching was good tonight, but I'm hoping our bats will come alive soon, because we've got some good teams coming up in the next few weeks."
The Maulers (6-16), in their first year in the league, got a sensational pitching effort Thursday night from Paul Ganz, the only Harford County resident in their starting lineup. Ganz allowed only four hits while striking out one and walking three in five innings.
Kwon So, who returned to Crouse after a stint in the Korean professional baseball league, got the first hit off Ganz in the third inning. He eventually scored on a wild pitch.
On the mound, Crouse pitchers allowed only three hits. Keith Brown went four innings allowing two hits and striking out five.
Rick Pekulski allowed only one hit in two innings and struck out two. But he gave up the only Maulers' run in the sixth inning on Dave Filipkowski's routine ground ball.
Ken Batten finished up the seventh inning striking out two without allowing a hit.
Crouse will need those same strong pitching efforts along with some offensive power to beat the teams coming up in the next few series.
Next week, Crouse hosts the Southern Division-leading Parkville Royals (10-2). On June 26, Crouse begins its four-game series with the Bel Air Athletic Club (15-7).
On July 12, Crouse meets Aberdeen McDonald's (20-5), third in the Northern Division.
In the final series of the season, Crouse will battle archrival Cecil Johnies beginning July 24. Cecil Johnies has won the last three divisional titles.