SAUGET — After a slow start, the time to shine may be almost here for the Gateway Grizzlies' "Big Ben."
Frontier League rookie Ben Waldrip, aka "Big Ben," broke a 1-all tie with a run-scoring single in the fourth inning and four Gateway pitchers combined to hold Frontier to four hits as the Grizzlies went on for a 3-1 win over the Frontier Greys before a Memorial Day crowd of 2,552 on Monday afternoon at GCS Ballpark.
Hitting just .194, Waldrip raised his spirits and the hopes of the Grizzlies when he lined a pitch from Greys reliever Ryan Hartman for a one-out single which scored Niko Vasquez with what proved to be the winning run.
Waldrip added a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the sixth inning for give the Grizzlies (8-2) a two-run lead and, when closer Richard Barrett retired the side in the ninth for his second save, Gateway has its sixth win in its last seven games.
Waldrip, a 6-foot-6 245-pound first baseman, who last played in the Colorado Rockies' system at Class A Asheville, said its taken awhile for him to fit in.
"It hasn't been the start I wanted, but (Gateway) manager Phil Warren and the rest of the coaches have worked with me and stuck with me to where I'm starting to relax a little more at the plate," Waldrip said. "I'm just trying to keep building day to day.''
Xavier Macklin added a solo home run -- his second of the season -- for Gateway and the Grizzies pitching staff continued to lower its microscopic team ERA. The Grizzlies entered the game third in the Frontier League with a 2.31 team ERA.
The Grizzlies also head into a three-game series beginning on Tuesday at Schaumburg with a 1 1/2 game lead over Windy City in the Frontier League's rugged West Division.
But as Warren is quick to point out, the Grizzlies have played only 10 games.
"I'm pleased. But the reality of it is that we've won eight games. We have a lot of room to get better in a whole bunch of areas,'' Warren said. "If we continue to get better and show up and play every night, then good things will happen for us.
Macklin gave Grizzlies starting and winning pitcher Ja'Vaun West (2-0) an early lead when he took a 2-1 pitch from Greys starter Devon Pearson and sent it sailing over the right-field wall for a 2-0 lead.
Waldrip then made it 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth with his RBI single.
Breezing along and allowing just one hit through four innings, West appeared to suffer an injury on his first pitch in the top of the fifth inning. After taking a couple of warm up tosses, West stayed in the game but allowed the only run Frontier (1-9) would scores.
A two-out single by the Greys Cameron Monger drove in Logan Pearce who had singled to lead off the inning. West was taken out after five innings, allowing only three hits while striking out six hitters.
"It looks like a lower oblique strain. He slipped on the mound and it's in his ribcage somewhere. Ja'Vaun's iced up and we'll take it day-to-day with him,'' Warren said. "Hopefully he won't miss more then a start if he has too.
"It's unfortunate. Ja'Vaun works his butt off and he was pitching well today."
Jake Stephens worked two scoreless innings while Luke Westphal pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning before Barrett pitched a scoreless ninth inning to clinch the win.
The Greys are a league team and play every game on the road.
The Grizzlies will be the host of the Southern Illinois Sports Panel Discussion at 1 p.m. Sunday at GCS Ballpark.
The discussion, which will take place in the ballpark's right field pavilion, is open to the public. The cost is $12 and includes the panel discussion ticket, a meal and two vouchers to a future Grizzlies game.
Proceeds help benefit Hospice of Southern Illinois. The meal includes pulled pork, potato salad, chips, water, soda and dessert. Tickets can be purchased at the ballpark the day of the event.
Panelists include St. Louis University baseball head coach Darin Hendrickson, SIU Edwardsville basketball associate head coach Matt Laur, St. Louis Blues and Gateway Grizzlies public address announcer Tom Calhoun and Belleville News-Democrat sportswriter Norm Sanders.
Gateway Grizzlies broadcaster Adam Young will emcee the event. Tickets can be ordered through the Grizzlies ticket office by calling 337-3000.
For more information, call Young or Steve Gomric in the Grizzlies office at 337-3000.