Grizzlies fizzled down the stretch run

News-DemocratSeptember 17, 2013 

— The 2013 season was an up-and-down one for Phil Warren's Gateway Grizzlies. After racing out to a 32-19 first-half record, the Grizzlies stumbled down the stretch and missed out on a playoff bid after a subpar August.

The first-half of the season was one of the best in team history. Gateway put together a nine-game win streak from June 6-16, which proved to be the second longest win streak during the year in the Frontier League. They sent a team-record nine players to the 2013 All-Star game, notched the best first-half record in the league and took a two and a half game West Division lead into the second half of the season. On July 27, Gateway led Schaumburg by 5 1/2 games for first place in the West.

Landon Hernandez, Jon Myers, Chris McClendon, Antone DeJesus, Ja'Vaun West, Tim Brown, Zac Treece, Richard Barrett and Jose Flores were all named to the All-Star team. Of the 27 players on the West Division roster, nine were Grizzlies. Due to their divisional lead at the midway point, the Grizzlies coaching staff directed the West squad at the game.

Just two days into the second half of the season, Grizzlies starting pitcher Tim Brown became the third pitcher in team history to pitch a no-hitter. Brown captured the feat on July 20 against the Lake Erie Crushers. It was the first Grizzlies no-hitter since 2008.

Gateway kept their division lead until mid-August when Schaumburg started a roll and cruised to the West Division title. Still aiming for the wild card, Gateway finished August with a record of 10-17 and were eliminated from playoff contention the second to last day of the regular season. Gateway went 7-3 in their last 10 games of the season and won their last two, but due to tie-breaker rules the Grizzlies missed out on the playoffs even though they finished tied with Florence for the final wild card spot.

Gateway closed out the regular season with the most runs (500) and home runs (106) in the league. The Grizzlies tied for third in team batting average (.265).

Grizzlies catcher Landon Hernandez was named the team MVP in his fourth year with the team. Hernandez batted .290 with 16 home runs and a team-best 65 RBI. The Palm Desert, Calif., native also had another stellar year throwing out runners behind the plate.

Grizzlies infielder Chris McClendon, in his third year with the team, batted a team-high .327 with seven home runs and 49 driven. The Lufkin, Texas, native committed only 8 errors in 82 games at third base.

Second baseman Jonathan Johnson proved to be an iron man once again in 2013. After breaking the Grizzlies single-season games played record in 2012 with 95 games, Johnson surpassed that total and played in all 96 games in 2013 to establish a new record.

Outfielder Jon Myers was named to both the midseason and postseason all-star team's after batting .283 with a league-best 25 home runs and 64 runs batted in. Myers' capped out the 2013 season with a two home run, nine RBI performance in the final game of the year at Southern Illinois. The nine RBI set a Grizzlies record and tied the league record.

Gateway outfielder Antone DeJesus earned his first all-star selection and got off to a stellar start to the second half before getting injured on August 1st and missing the rest of the season. At the time of the injury, DeJesus was batting .330 with five home runs and 27 RBI, while only committing three errors.

After starting shortstop Vladimir Frias had his contract purchased by the Boston Red Sox, Warren made a big splash near the trade deadline, acquiring Joliet Slammers shortstop Michael Wing in mid-August. Wing, who batted .210 in 69 games with the Slammers, hit .387 for the Grizzlies in 19 games. The former Angels farmhand hit three home runs and drove in 13 with the Grizzlies.

Grizzlies pitching compiled an ERA of 4.08 in 2013. Gateway's starting rotation was led once again by 26-year-old St. Louis native Tim Brown, who went 13-3 with a 2.97 ERA in 2013. Brown finished one win shy of tying the team's single season record (Erik Dessau, 2007).

Ja'Vaun West went 8-3 with a 3.02 ERA in his first full year as a starting pitcher. West went 7-2 with a 2.71 ERA prior to the All-Star break before an injury forced him to miss starts in August.

The Gateway bullpen relied heavily on right-handers Zac Treece, Richard Barrett and Brett Higginbotham in 2013. Treece and Barrett were both named to the All-Star team.

Treece won five games and collected a 2.13 ERA with five saves.

Barrett had a 3.15 ERA along with a 14 saves.

Higginbotham, a rookie from Division I Stephen F. Austin University, was named the 2013 Grizzlies Rookie of the Year. Despite not signing with the Grizzlies until mid-June, Higginbotham appeared in 30 games and compiled a 2.69 ERA.

Warren also made a trade for pitching in August, acquiring right-handed reliever Justin Erasmus from Joliet on Aug. 17. Erasmus pitched in six games with the Grizzlies down the stretch, not allowing a hit or a run with three saves. Erasmus finished with 20 saves on the season.

Defense was the staple of Warren's baseball team once again. Gateway committed the fewest errors (76) in the league and compiled the best fielding percentage in the league.

Warren, who completed his seventh season, now sits at 357 career wins with Gateway.

After another winning season, the Gateway Grizzlies will begin their quest to their first Frontier League Championship since 2003 when May 2014 rolls around.

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