Jensen helps Grizzlies push win streak to eight games

News-DemocratJune 15, 2013 

— Pitcher Tucker Jensen was a model of efficiency in helping the Gateway Grizzlies run their winning streak to eight games.

With the help of three double plays, Jensen faced the mininum of 21 batters through the first seven innings as the Grizzlies beat the Normal CornBelters 3-2 Friday in a battle of the two top teams in the Frontier League's West Division.

Jensen (3-0) allowed five hits and one earned run in eight innings of work. He struck out five and walked none.

"I decided after my last start that walking six guys isn't a good idea,'' Jensen said. "When you start facing better teams, walks kill. I just tried to locate my fastball, get ahead and stay ahead and let the defense work.''

Gateway manager Phil Warren said he was pleased with Jensen's performance.

"I like the word 'efficient,''' Warren said. "A couple of our other guys, that's what (pitching coach) Randy (Martz) and I are after. He moved the ball around, he used the strike zone that was given and he kept them off balance.''

Jensen, who was in the Toronto Blue Jays organization in 2011 and 2012, is the grandson of former major leaguer Jackie Jensen, the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1958 with the Boston Red Sox. Jensen's grandfather died seven years before he was born.

"Not many people know that he was a college football player, too,'' Jensen said. "He was a running back and got votes in the Heisman.''

Jackie Jensen was fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting with California in 1948.

Jensen said he never got to enjoy the perks of having a famous grandfather until he got older.

"My parents would always go to a Red Sox series,'' Jensen said. "They always got invited, but I never got taken along. Now that I am older and I can do whatever I want on my own, I take the free tickets and I go.''

The winning streak is the longest for the Grizzlies since 2007 when they won 12 straight games.

"People are starting to talk about it a little bit,'' Warren said. "We are playing better baseball. We're not there yet, but we're playing better ball against good teams, which is nice. One-run games, blowouts, you name it. These guys are just finding a way to win.''

Vladimir Frias and Michael Pair both hit solo homers for the Grizzlies (17-7), who increased their West Division lead over the second-place CornBelters (16-9) to 1 1/2 games.

Richard Barrett set down the CornBelters in order in the ninth to pick up his Frontier League-leading eighth save.

The Grizzlies scored a run in three of the first four innings -- all coming after there were two outs -- off CornBelters starter Luis Noel (2-0).

In the first inning, Chris McClendon singled with two outs and Landon Hernandez followed with a double to left field.

Frias homered with two outs in the second inning.

Frias sent a 3-2 pitch from Noel just over the glove of leaping right fielder David Medino at the wall.

It was Frias' third homer of the season.

Pair cracked a solo homer down the right-field line in the fourth inning.

It also was Pair's third homer of the season.

The CornBelters broke through for two runs in the eighth inning against Jensen.

Romulo Ruiz singled with one out and Matt Wright followed with a triple to center field. Wright scored on a passed ball.

The Grizzlies were wearing purple jerseys for GCS Credit Union Jersey-off-the-back Night to benefit the March of Dimes.

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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