SAUGET — On the eve of the nation's birthday, Freedom rang -- three times -- on Thursday at GCS Ballpark.
Orrin Sears, of Florence, hit a third inning grand slam and teammates Sam Eberle and Rob Kelly hit solo home runs off Gateway ace Aaron Newcomb as the Freedom ended the Grizzlies nine-game winning streak with a 6-1 win.
Looking to start the holiday weekend off on a bright note, a crowd of 5,911 -- the second largest of the season -- was on hand to see if the Grizzlies could extend their longest winning streak in seven years.
But with the Freedom (18-22) hitting home runs in the first three innings, and pitcher Chuck Weaver allowing just three hits in seven innings, the highlight of the night for the Gateway fans proved to be the postgame firework show.
The loss is just the fifth in 26 games at GCS Ballpark for Gateway (30-14), which squandered excellent scoring chances in the first two innings.
But when Sears, hitting just .194, took a 1-1 pitch from Newcomb and hit it over the right field fence, the Freedom had a commanding 6-0 lead.
With Weaver in control on the mound, the Grizzlies had no response.
"He (Weaver) has done well this year and, after the first couple of innings when we didn't capitalize, he settled in and pitched well,'' Gateway manager Phil Warren said. "This was the first time we've seen him and hopefully we'll see him again.''
The Grizzlies avoided being shut out by scoring a run off Florence reliever Daniel DeSimone in the eighth. Madison Beaird led off with a single and scored on a two-out single by Niko Vasquez, who was honored before the game as the Frontier League Player of the Week for the week ending on June 29.
The Freedom got off to a good start against Newcomb. Tied for the league lead in wins with seven entering play on Friday, the former Centralia standout retired the first two hitters before Sam Eberle turned around a 1-1 pitch and hit it over the right field fence for a 1-0 Florence lead.
Kelly made it 2-0 in the top of the second with his home run.
"He (Newcomb) didn't have it tonight and he'll be the first one to say so. Aaron was up (in the strike zone). The first inning he got a couple of ground balls then they hit the home run," Warren said. "If you look at the majority of his outs they were on fly balls. He normally gets a lot of ground balls. He didn't have his good stuff. It happens.''
The Grizzlies threatened in their first two at bats but came away with nothing.
Michael Johnson singled and Kale Kiser was hit by a pitch to lead off the Grizzlies first inning. But Weaver was saved when centerfielder Cole Miles made a headlong diving catch on a drive off the bat of Michael Wing with runners on first and third.
The Grizzlies put two runners on in the second inning but Weaver got Madison Beaird to ground into a double play to end the threat.
Sears then made it 6-0 in the third inning when he hit a 1-0 Newcomb pitch over the rightfield wall for his grand slam.
The Grizzlies conclude the homestand with a two-game series against arch rival River City. The Grizzlies and Rascals will play at 6:05 p.m. on Friday and 7:05 p.m. on Saturday. Fireworks will follow both nights.