SAUGET — Michael Pair hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and Jet Butler singled in the go-ahead run later in the inning as the Gateway Grizzlies rallied to beat the Florence Freedom 6-5 on Saturday night.
Antone DeJesus drew a four-pitch leadoff walk off Florence closer Jorge Marban, who entered the game leading the Frontier League with 11 saves. A crowd of 3,254 at GCS Stadium saw Pair run up a 3-2 count before crushing a homer to right field. It was his fourth home run of the season.
Jose Flores walked, Chris McClendon hit into a force play at second, Landon Hernandez walked and Butler hit a bloop single into shallow center field, scoring McClendon.
Closer Richard Barrett (1-0) picked up the win for the Grizzlies. He struck out the side in the top of the ninth.
The Grizzlies (25-12) got back on the winning track after suffering a 9-5 loss to Florence on Friday night. They've won four of their last five games and they remain in first place in the Frontier League's West Division.
The Freedom (23-14) had a four-game winning streak snapped and they dropped out of a tie for first place with Traverse City in the East Division.
Jeremy Hamilton drove in two runs with a double and a sacrifice fly to help the Freedom take a 5-3 lead into the ninth.
Freedom starter Chuck Weaver went 5 1/3 innings, but failed to pick up his first professional win. The right-hander allowed five hits and three runs.
Grizzlies starter Gregg Downing (2-4) had some control issues that led him to throwing 127 pitches in 5 2/3 innings of work. The left-hander allowed six hits, while striking out six and walking seven.
Downing walked two of the first three batters that he faced in the first inning, but he escaped any damage thanks a stellar defensive play by Gateway right fielder Jet Butler.
Butler reached over the wall to rob Jacob Tanis of a three-run homer.
The Grizzlies got on the scoreboard with a two-out rally in the second.
Vladamir Frias singled to center field, DeJesus reached on a bunt single toward third base and Matt Mirabel reached on a slow grounder toward third to load the bases.
Jonathan Johnson drew a walk after running up a 3-1 count against Florence starter Chuck Weaver to bring in a run.
Butler threw out Edwin Padua trying to stretch a single down the right-field line into a double leading off the fifth.
Butler's defensive gem didn't stop the Freedom from scoring three runs in the top of the fifth, pulling Florence ahead 3-1.
Junior Arroyo drew his third walk of the game off Downing, went to second base on a wild pitch and stole third.
Arroyo scored on a grounder to the shortstop by Pablo Bermudez, who later would score on a wild pitch.
Hamilton hit a hot shot past the second baseman for a double. Tanis drove in Hamilton with a single up the middle.
The Freedom knocked out Downing with a two-out RBI single by Tanis in the sixth inning.
The Grizzlies answered with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
McClendon and Butler both singled to spark the rally. Daniel DeSimone relieved Weaver and got a strikeout before surrendering an RBI single to Frias.
Butler scored when Padua threw wildly to first base on a grounder to second by DeJesus.
The Freedom loaded the bases on only three pitches from Gateway reliever Zac Treece in the eighth inning.
Padua led off with a single and Arrojo and Bermudez were both hit by a pitch.
Hamilton brought home Padua with a sacrifice fly to center field.
Treece wriggled out of the jam with no further damage.
The Grizzlies will play the final game of their three-game set against the Freedom at 3:05 p.m. Sunday at GCS Stadium.
Right-hander Tucker Jensen will be on the mound for the Grizzlies. He'll be opposed by Florence right-hander Jason Wilson (1-3).
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.