SAUGET — The Rockford Aviators got off to a flying start and never looked back in defeating Gateway 7-4 on Tuesday at GCS Ballpark.
The Aviators (8-8) jumped on Gateway starter Dejai Oliver for four runs in the top of the first inning then rode the solid pitching of Joey Wagman and three relievers as they spoiled the night for a crowd of 2,696 with the Frontier League win.
Playing on a hot, humid and muggy night the Aviators took advantage of a struggling Oliver. Rockford's Kenny Bryant had a run-scoring single and Austin Gallagher added a two-run single off Oliver, who suffered through a second straight poor start.
Entering the game with a 4.67 ERA, Oliver (2-2) walked six for the second straight time out and worked just 5 2/3 innings and left with his team trailing 6-2.
"It's not like they (Rockford) were hitting the ball that hard. It seemed like he (Oliver) gave up a few seeing- eye hits early. Then the walks started," veteran Grizzlies manager Phil Warren said. "He's struggling a little bit with his mechanics right now but at least he battled out there and gave us more (innings) than what it looked like he would early."
Gateway (11-6) got back-to-back home runs from Michael Wing and Ben Waldrip to cut its deficit to 4-2 in the second inning and Wing added a two-run single in the sixth, but the Grizzlies could get no closer the rest of the night.
Roughed up in his last start May 28, a 6-1 loss at Schaumburg in which he surrendered six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, Oliver was hit hard by the Aviators in the top of the first inning.
Leadoff hitter Tanner Witt singled and when Jeff Kremer and Jose Martinez followed with base hits, Rockford had the bases loaded with nobody out.
Cleanup hitter Kenny Bryant followed with a fourth straight single to score the first run.
Edgar Corcino followed with an RBI ground out and when Gallagher lined with his two-run double, the Aviators led 4-0 with just one out in the top of the first inning.
Finally able to settle down, Oliver retired the next 11 hitters before losing track of the strike zone in the fourth inning when four consecutive walks increased the Rockford lead to 5-2.
Trailing 6-2 after a run-scoring single by Jose Martinez in the top of the sixth inning, Gateway closed the gap in half as it chased Rockford starter Joey Wagman in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Wagman, who had retired 12 consecutive Grizzlies hitters after giving up back-to-back home runs to Wing and Waldrip in the second inning, got the first two Grizzlies in the bottom of the inning before Richard Seigel ended the string with a double.
Wagman then hit Landon Hernandez with a pitch and walked Niko Vasquez to load the bases. Wing followed with a line drive single, scoring two runs and making the score 6-4.
But that was it for the Grizzlies on the sultry spring evening.