SAUGET — Finally, a Sunday win at home for the Gateway Grizzlies.
Michael Pair drove in Jon Myers with a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning as Gateway defeated the Frontier Greys 7-6 before a crowd of 2,487 at GCS Ballpark.
The victory was the first Sunday home win of the season for Gateway, which led 6-1 after six innings and 6-3 after eight, only to see closer Richard Barrett give up a game-tying three-run home run to J.J. Muse with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
The home run was the second of the game for Muse
But Pair's hard two-hopper, on a 3-1 pitch from losing pitcher Bryce Shafer, eluded Greys second baseman Eric Avila and chased home the game-winning run.
"It was a fastball a little down and in,'' said Pair, with shaving cream from the victory celebration still hanging from his eyebrows. "I felt good at the plate all night and had good at-bats. We were coming off a great road trip where we went 4-2 and so to be able to come in and win here tonight is big.''
Brett Higginbotham, the fourth pitcher used by Grizzlies manager Phil Warren, got the win in relief.
"I wasn't aware we hadn't won on Sunday (at GCS Ballpark) until somebody mentioned it on the way home last night. It doesn't matter to me if it's Sunday, Monday or Thursday, as long as we win,'' Warren said. "Things like what happened to (Richard) Barrett tonight, they happen.
"But the guys didn't hang their heads after they tied the game. They fought back like they have all year. We didn't quit. Sometimes that isn't enough and other times, like tonight, you're rewarded for the effort.''
For most of the game, it appeared shortstop Vladimir Frias would wear the hero's label after converting on a second chance.
It was Frias who broke open a close game with a bases-clearing double in the fifth inning, as Gateway took a 5-1 lead.
Holding a 2-1 lead, Gateway loaded the bases against Greys reliever Kyle Brady as Chris McClendon and Jon Myers singled and Antone DeJesus walked.
Frias, who had rolled into a rally-killing double play with the bases loaded in the third inning, then drilled a 2-1 pitch to the center-field wall, driving in all three runs and giving Gateway a 5-1 lead.
Jet Butler added a run-scoring single in the sixth for Gateway, offsetting a Muse solo home run in the second inning and a two-run clout by Balbino Fuenmayor in the seventh.
Gateway starter Matt Sergey (1-1) struck out six and walked one before tiring in the seventh. Reliever Aaron Baker retired all four Greys hitters he faced before Frontier tied it against Barrett in the top of the ninth.
Fresh off a 4-2 road trip, the Grizzlies (38-23) entered Sunday with a four-game lead over Normal in the Frontier League's West Division.
Against Frontier starter Graham Johnson, the Grizzlies wasted little time taking the lead.
Jonathan Johnson led off with a walk and scampered all the way to third base when Johnson's made a wild pickoff throw.
After Jose Flores struck out, McClendon lined a run-scoring double, giving the Grizzlies the lead.
Two batters later, Antone DeJesus beat out an infield hit scoring McClendon from second base for a 2-0 advantage.
Frontier (23-38), which plays all of its game on the road, cut the Grizzlies' lead to 2-1 in the second inning when Muse hit his fourth home run of the season.
The Grizzlies had a chance to take control of the game in the bottom of the third, as they loaded the bases with nobody out.
But Johnson struck out DeJesus and got Frias to ground into a double play.