SAUGET — On a night when the sizzling bats cooled off, the Gateway Grizzlies still found a way to keep their winning streak alive on Tuesday at GCS Ballpark.
And, it was a very unusual way at that.
Newcomer Kale Kiser doubled to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning and scored when Richard Seigel was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded as the Grizzlies ran their season-best winning streak to eight with a 3-2 win over the Florence Freedom.
The Grizzlies (29-13), who tied the game in the bottom of the ninth inning on an RBI double by Michael Wing, managed only nine hits against six stingy Freedom pitchers and a Florence team which turned three double plays and made several outstanding defensive plays to keep Gateway's powerful offense in check.
The Grizzlies had scored 54 runs in their previous seven games -- all wins.
But on this night, the Grizzlies found a new way to win.
"We hit the ball hard all night and give them (Florence) credit because they made the plays. But to our credit, we kept putting the pressure on. Michael (Wing) got the big hit in the ninth and then Kale (Kiser) got a big hit in the 11th,'' Grizzlies manager Phil Warren said. "When you are going good, you find ways to get it done and that's what we did tonight."
After Kiser doubled, Tommy Richards bunted him to third base. The Freedom (17-21) then walked both Landon Hernandez and Wing to load the bases.
With the Freedom with five infielders and the outfield drawn in shallow, reliever Chris Cummins hit Seigel with an 0-2 pitch to score the winning run.
Richard Barrett was the winning pitcher for Gateway.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Grizzlies responded off Freedom closer Jorge Marban. Niko Vasquez walked to lead off and advanced to second when Landon Hernandez grounded out.
Tommy Richards then was sent in to pinch run for Vasquez and scored seconds later when Wing lined a double down the leftfield line. The hit was the third of the game for Wing and raised his season average to .334.
Gateway starting pitcher Tucker Jensen (5-1) gave the sparse turnout of 1,402 something to cheer about as he didn't allow a hit for the first 5 1/3 innings.
But after Michael Wilson singled to end the no-hit bid, The Freedom's Sam Eberle and Ben Kline drove in runs later in the sixth inning to give Florence a 2-1 lead.
It stayed that way until Wing's clutch double tied it in the ninth
The reigning Frontier League Player of the Week, Niko Vasquez hit a solo home run for the Grizzlies in the fourth inning off Freedom starter Peter Gehle. That gave Gateway a 1-0 lead.
But getting brilliant defensive support by his teammates, Gehle slammed the door on the Grizzlies for 6 2/3 innings before reliever Pete Levitt took over.
The Freedom turned three double plays and got brilliant individual gems from second baseman Wilson and first baseman Rob Kelly to keep the Grizzlies offense in check.
Held in check by Jensen, the Freedom got its first hit when Wilson singled off the glove of Grizzlies leftfielder Xavier Macklin with one out in the sixth.
Jensen then walked Cole Miles to put runners on first and second base, but retired Joe Staley for the second out of the inning.
On the verge of getting out of the inning, Jensen then gave up run scoring singles to Eberle and Kline in the sixth as the Freedom took 2-1 lead.
Jensen worked six innings before Luke Westphal took over in the seventh.
While Jensen was brilliant early, Gehle also coasted the first three innings with the help of his defense. Wing had a one-out single in the second inning while Ben Waldrip led off the third with a single off the leftfield wall.
Both runners were erased on double plays.
Gehle then retied the first two hitters in the fourth before Vasquez drilled his 0-1 pitch over the leftfield wall for a home run.
Gateway threatened in the bottom of the fifth as Waldrip doubled with one out and Macklin walked. But Gehle got Madison Beaird to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end yet another scoring chance.
The Grizzlies-Freedom series continues at 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday and concludes with a 6:05 p.m. game on Thursday. The Grizzlies kick off the Fourth of July holiday with a fireworks show following the game on Thursday.
River City comes to the friendly confines of GCS Ballpark for a 6:05 p.m. game on Friday and a 7:05 p.m. first pitch Saturday. Fireworks will follow both nights.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or email@example.com