SAUGET — The Gateway Grizzlies began the second half of the 2013 season Friday. Their bats, however, seemed to remain on sabbatical.
Four Lake Erie pitchers combined to limit Gateway to six hits and Jordan Wellender pitched out of a bases-loaded situation in the ninth inning as the Crushers held on for a 3-2 win before a crowd of 3,986 at GCS Ballpark.
Tied 1-1 after eight innings, Lake Erie (27-25) scored twice against Grizzlies relief ace Richard Barrett (2-1) on a run-scoring single by Max Casper and an RBI double by Seth Granger, taking a 3-1 lead.
The Grizzlies rallied in the bottom of the inning against Crushers reliever Dale Dickerson.
Landon Hernandez doubled to lead off, went to third on a single by pinch-hitter Alex Guthrie and scored on a line-drive single from Antone DeJesus, cutting the lead to 3-2.
Dickerson then walked Michael Pair to load the bases.
Wellender took over and after getting Vladimir Frias on a shallow fly to left, he retired Grizzlies leadoff hitter Jonathan Johnson to end the game.
"Our approach at the plate tonight wasn't what it should have been," Gateway manager Phil Warren said. "We hit the ball up in the air tonight, instead of hitting line drives.
"But the bottom line was that we had a runner on third base four times tonight and didn't score one time. That was the difference in the ballgame. If we come through just 50 percent of the time, we win. It's pretty simple.''
The loss spoiled a strong effort from Grizzlies starter Tucker Jensen, who worked seven innings on a hot, humid night.
Jensen allowed just one run on five hits. But Gateway (32-20) managed just three hits in the first eight innings off Lake Erie pitching. Two of the hits were by Pair, Gateway's designated hitter.
Lake Erie was a Frontier League best 9-4 in July entering play on Friday, with a team ERA of 1.67.
Crushers starter Lake Erie starter Matt Smith retired the first six Grizzlies he faced, before issuing a leadoff walk to Antone DeJesus to start the bottom of the third inning.
Pair then took a 2-1 pitch and drove it into the left-center field gap, with DeJesus scoring all the way from first to put the Grizzlies up 1-0.
Smith issued a two-out walk to Jose Flores to put runners on first and second, but retired Chris McClendon on a slow roller to retire the side.
Jensen wasn't perfect in the first four innings.
After stranding runners on first and second, he got Emmanuel Quiles to ground into a double play to get out a jam in the fourth.
But in the fifth, the Crushers responded after two were out.
Jensen walked Seth Granger and allowed singles to Craig Hertler and Daniel Bowman to load the bases.
Jensen then walked Anderson Hildalgo on a 3-2 pitch, forcing in the tying run.