SAUGET — When the Gateway Grizzlies needed him the most, shortstop Vladimir Frias came through in the clutch Wednesday at GCS Ballpark.
Frias highlighted a seven-run Grizzlies uprising with a three-run double in the fifth inning, as Gateway rallied for a 9-5 win over Evansville before a crowd of 2,247.
Second in the Frontier League's East Division, Evansville (21-13) jumped out to a 4-0 lead against Grizzlies ace Tim Brown and held a 4-1 advantage heading into the bottom of the fifth.
But Gateway (23-11) sent 12 batters to the plate, eventually taking an 8-4 lead, while on its way to its fifth win in the last six games.
With one out in the fifth, Otters starter Ryan Zamorsky allowed singles by Antone DeJesus and Jonathan Johnson, along with a walk to Alex Guthrie, to load the bases.
Consecutive singles by Jose Flores and Chris McClendon cut the lead to 4-3 and when Gateway catcher Landon Hernandez walked, it forced in the tying run.
Jet Butler then hit a slow roller to Otters first baseman Steve Marino, who fired home for the force out. But Evansville catcher John Nester's return throw to first in an attempt to complete the double play, sailed into shallow right, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Following a walk to Jon Myers which reloaded the bases, Frias followed with his double, which gave Gateway an 8-4 lead.
Facing the off-speed deliveries of Zamorsky, Frias grounded out his first two times. But sitting on a fastball, the 26-year old native of the Dominican Republic, was ready in his third at bat.
"He (Zamorsky) got me out with off-speed pitches the first two times. The third time, I had a plan when I went up to the plate. I made the adjustment,'' Frias said. "In that situation, I'm looking for a fastball, especially a first pitch fastball. I wanted to hit the ball hard and I was able to do that.''
Frias added a seventh-inning RBI double to increase the Grizzlies' lead to 9-5.
"Vlad had two big hits for us. The double in the seventh gave us back the four run lead, which is big in my book,'' Grizzlies manager Phil Warren said. "Vlad talked about having to make adjustments during the game and I thought for the most part our guys did that tonight.''
Brown (5-2) worked seven innings to get the win, while relievers Zac Treece and Richard Barrett worked an inning apiece as Gateway maintained its lead in the West Division standings.
The Otters, getting a two-run home run from J.R. Higley, looked to be in control with a 4-1 lead through 4 1/2 innings against Brown.
Entering the game with a 4-2 record and 2.32 ERA, Brown wasn't sharp in the first three innings.
After getting good defensive plays from Frias and left fielder Jon Myers to help keep the Otters scoreless in the first inning, Brown gave up an unearned run in the top of the second.
Evansville took command in the top of the third, thanks to Highly.
With one out, Brown walked Otters designated hitter Nick Schwaner. Steve Marino then followed with a double to put runners on second and third.
Brown then retired Frank Martinez on a fly ball for the second out.
With an 0-2 count on Higley, Brown's pitch hit in front of the plate and bounced behind catcher Landon Hernandez.
Breaking on the play, Schwaner beat Hernandez' flip to Brown, who was covering home, to make the score 2-0.
Two pitches later, Higley hit a Brown delivery over the low right-field wall, making it 4-0.
The Grizzlies got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning, when Guthrie walked, advanced to second on a fielder's choice, stole third and scored when Otters catcher John Nester's throw sailed into left field.
The Otters-Grizzlies series concludes Thursday with a 7:05 p.m. contest. Florence then comes to GCS Ballpark on Friday for the first of a three-game series, also beginning at 7:05 p.m.