Humboldt Crabs hitter Ryan Higgins celebrates following his fifth inning grand slam in a 13-0 win over the San Leandro Ports, Wednesday night at the Arcata Ball Park. (Jose Quezada — For the Times-Standard)
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Ryan Higgins made his first home run of the summer a memorable one as his fifth inning grand slam put the Humboldt Crabs in the driver’s seat, snapping a two-game losing skid and avoiding a midweek series sweep with a 13-0 win over the visiting San Leandro Ports, Wednesday night at the Arcata Ball Park.

Josh Mollerus (3-2) put forth his best start at pitcher of the season on Wednesday, shutting out the Ports through seven innings. Mollerus gave up four hits and half as many walks while striking out nine in the win, his third in a row as a starter.

The Crabs broke through and seized the first lead of the night in the bottom of the fifth inning. The inning’s lead-off batter, Bryce Kirk, worked his way to a walk and the ensuing Crabs batter, Kyle Knell, singled to move Kirk over to third and load two men on with no outs.

Riley Cleary stepped to the plate next and before the University of San Francisco man could get his bat on a ball Kirk stole home on a pass ball to put the Crabs ahead 1-0. Shortly after Kirk’s score Cleary connected on a sac-fly to left field, scoring Knell the home team’s second run of the frame.

The Crabs kept their profitable fifth inning going following the pair of scores as both Dylan Johnson and Kokko Figueiredo both made their way on base following Cleary’s at-bat, the former by way of a hit-by-pitch and the latter, a walk. With two outs Dawson Bacho put the Crabs up 3-0 after Figueiredo’s walk via a line drive single into left field.

The Ports swapped pitchers following Bacho’s at-bat, sending starter Kevin Whitaker to the dugout in favor of reliever John Holzcraw, but it made little difference as Damian Henderson fought his way to a walk to load up the bases, setting up Ryan Higgins who stepped to the plate 0-2 with a pair of strikeouts.

His third attempt went much better.

Higgins sent a freeway-bound ball over the left field — his first home run of the season which lifted the Crabs to a 7-0 advantage heading into the sixth inning.

Higgins wasn’t done scoring runs after the fifth as his next trip to the plate in the seventh inning — with the bases loaded once again — saw Higgins hit into a fielder’s choice, giving Figueiredo enough time to score. The Crabs tacked on two more runs before the frame’s end; the first, a sac-fly from Knell which scored Bacho and the second, an error on a fly ball from Cleary which saw him reach first base safely and Higgins come from third to put the Crabs ahead 10-0.

The Ports sent out their fourth pitcher of the night, Tony Chiodo, to start the eighth inning and, like his trio of predecessors, found the Crabs too tough to shut down.

Bacho, with one out and Figueiredo already on base, sent a two-run shot into the side of Arcata’s City Hall to move the Crabs ahead 12-0. Later in the inning Chiodo, with the bases loaded, was called for a balk which scored Henderson for the home team’s final run of the night.

Game notes

Figueiredo and Bacho led the Crabs with three hits a piece in the win. Figueiredo also walked twice on Wednesday as the second-year Crab made it on base a total of eight times in two games against the Ports. The Ports had four total hits in the loss while the Crabs had 11.

Higgins, mostly due to his grand slam, led the Crabs in RBIs with five.

Ryan Cowdrey closed out the final two innings at pitcher for the Crabs and, despite loading up the bases in the eighth with no outs, managed to hold on to the shutout. He gave up no hits and struck out four while walking three.

Kevin Whitaker, the Ports’ starting pitcher, took the loss on Wednesday. He gave up five earned runs on four hits in 4.2 innings of action.

Up next

The Crabs (18-13) will welcome the Ukiah Hawks to town for a three-game series beginning Friday at 7 p.m. at the Arcata Ball Park.

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