Grizzlies Jensen tosses gem in shutting out Slammers

Special to the News-DemocratMay 21, 2013 

— Tucker Jensen did his grandfather proud on Tuesday night.

The Gateway right-hander tossed seven shutout innings and the Grizzlies pushed across unearned runs in the fifth and sixth innings to squeeze out a 2-0 win over Joliet in the home opener before 4,427 at GCS Ballpark.

Gateway won for third time in four outings this young Frontier League season.

Jensen, whose grandfather Jackie Jensen was an All-Star with Boston Red Sox and the American League MVP in 1958, gave up four hits in a 65-strike, 99-pitch stint. Two of the hits never left the infield. He struck out nine and did not walk a batter. Jensen retired 13 hitters in a row between the second and seventh innings.

Gateway relievers Zac Treece and Richard Barrett set the Slammers down without a hit in the eighth and ninth. Barrett picked up his second save.

The 6-foot-2 Jensen was cut loose by the Toronto Blue Jays after a 5-6 record over two seasons. He reached the High-A level with Dunedin.

"He commanded his pitches and he put the ball where he wanted to," Gateway manager Phil Warren said. "He got ground balls and he worked in-and-out."

The Grizzlies capitalized on an egregious bobble to go up 1-0. With a runner on third and one out, Joliet second baseman Nate Wilder booted a routine grounder off the bat of Antone DeJesus to allow Jon Myers to score. The slow roller went under the glove of Wilder, who made his third error in four games. Myers, who began the inning with a leadoff double, had retreated to third when he saw the ball was hit directly at Wilder.

That run was all Jensen needed.

"In the first inning I was rushing everything," Jensen said. "After that, I kind of settled in and was hitting my spots."

Tucker's grandfather Jensen passed away in 1982 from a heart attack and never got to meet his grandson. He had 199 homers and 929 RBIs in an 11-year career. Tucker would have loved to have seen his grandfather play and says he wishes he could have pitched against him just one time.

"I would love to someday be able to play at his level," Tucker said. "He was great ballplayer, did a lot of things real well."

The Slammers (2-2) made three errors in the sixth to allow Landon Hernandez to score the second run. Jet Butler had the only hit in the frame.

While Joliet committed four costly errors, the Grizzlies shined defensively. Third baseman Chris McClendon made a diving catch of a line drive to start the fourth. Hernandez, behind the plate, gunned down Michael Wing trying to steal in the seventh.

Joliet put two runners on in the first inning but Jensen fanned Seth Schwindenhammer to end the threat. Wilder hit a two-out double in the second and was stranded.

Gateway managed just five hits off two different Joliet pitchers. Starter Jacob Sanchez allowed four hits over six innings.

The Grizzlies have picked up right where they left off last season. They closed the regular season on 30-14 run to cap off the second-best regular campaign in the 13-year history of the franchise. They went 32-16 over the second half.

The Gateway pitching staff has allowed just three earned runs on 30 hits in four games.

"They've been pounding the zone and the walks have been limited," Warren said.

NOTES: Joliet is managed by former Gateway player and coach Mike Breyman. .... Gateway infielder Jonathan Johnson, who went 0 for 4, had a 65-game on-base streak last season. ... The Grizzlies have 12 players on the roster from 2012. ... Gateway got off to a rough 7-11 start last season. ... The contest took 2 hours, 19 minutes to complete.

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