SAUGET — Facing an early four-run deficit, the Gateway Grizzlies dug deep then went deep Thursday to stay in the midst of the Frontier League wild-card race.
Jose Flores and Alex Guthrie hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning to give Gateway the lead for good as the Grizzlies went on for a 10-8 win before a crowd of 1,917 at GCS Ballpark.
Coming off a marathon 16-13 win on Wednesday, the Miners led 4-0 after 2 1/2 innings against Gateway starter Ja'Vaun West. But with its back against the wall, Gateway bounced back.
A pair of runs in the bottom of the third cut the Miners lead to 4-2, before Flores hit a two-run home run in the fourth to tie the game at 4. The home run, which came off losing pitcher Preston Vancil, hit the top of the wall and bounced over.
Two pitches later, Guthrie gave Gateway a 5-4 lead with his home run.
Chris McClendon added a run-scoring double in the fifth before Jon Myers put the game away with a grand slam in the seventh inning off Miners reliever Nelson Curry. The home run was a Frontier League leading 23rd of the season for Myers and gave Gateway a 10-4 lead.
The win moves Gateway into a tie with Southern Illinois and Florence with identical 49-41 records in the battle for the second and final wild-card spot.
"It's basically come down to a six-game season. We can't worry about what the other two or three contenders are doing. We have to be concerned with ourselves and coming out and playing good baseball starting tomorrow (Friday) night against a good Rockford team,'' Grizzlies manager Phil Warren said. "One game at a time. That's the way we have to play it now.''
All three wild-card contenders have six games remaining. Gateway will host Rockford in a three game series beginning today at 7:05 p.m. The Grizzlies then play at Southern Illinois in a three-game series beginning Tuesday.
Florence travels to Washington for a three-game series then finishes the regular season at home Sept. 3-5 against Windy City.
Southern Illinois plays at River City in a three-game series beginning today then hosts Gateway.
Ja'Vaun West (8-3) worked six innings to get the win for Gateway, while four relievers combined to pitch the final three innings.
Southern Illinois scored four times in the ninth inning before Justin Erasmus retired the final three hitters to pick up the save.
Cory Harrilchak and Carlos Mendez continued to terrorize Gateway pitching in the first three innings Thursday.
Harrilchak, whose grand slam proved to be the difference in the Miners' 16-13 win Wednesday, took the third pitch of the game from West over the right-field wall for a 1-0 lead.
The Miners right fielder then drew a one-out walk to start the top of the third. After stealing second base, Harrilchak scored on a ground-rule double by Carlos Mendez.
The double was the sixth hit in his last eight at bats for Mendez, who went 4-for-6 with four RBIs on Wednesday.
West then walked Jereme Milons, who scored along with Mendez on a two-run double by Ken Gregory to increase the Miners' lead to 4-0.
But the Grizzlies bounced back.
Gateway loaded the bases with one out in the third inning. Chris McClendon then made it 4-1 with a sacrifice fly and the Grizzlies cut the lead in half when Vancil unleashed a wild pitch, which scored Jonathan Johnson from third.