SAUGET — After an often-times impressive first half of the 2014 season, the Frontier League All-Star break appears to be arriving at just the right time for the Gateway Grizzlies.
Southern Illinois left-hander Matt Bywater and three relievers combined to hold Gateway to four hits and recorded 13 strikeouts along the way, as the Miners completed a three-game sweep with a 10-5 win over Gateway on Sunday at GCS Ballpark.
The Miners (29-22) scored five runs in the fourth inning off Grizzlies starter Tucker Jensen and never looked back, sending Gateway to its season-high third straight setback.
Ryan Cavan and Jay Austin had run-scoring singles for the Miners to highlight the inning. Frank Martinez added a two-run home run in the eighth, expanding the Miners' lead to 9-2.
Held to just one hit through seven innings, including a two-run single by Madison Beaird in the fifth inning, Gateway closed to within 9-5 on a two-run double by TJ Bennett and a RBI single by Xavier Macklin in the bottom of the eighth.
The threat ended two hitters later when Michael Johnson struck out with the bases loaded.
With the loss, the Grizzlies ended the first half with a 33-19 record and in a virtual tie for the West Division lead with the River City Rascals.
River City defeated Windy City 10-8 on Sunday to improve to 32-18.
"I've gone into All-Star breaks before with a five- or six-game winning streak and had terrible second halves of the season. I'm not going to read too much into this,'' Grizzlies manager Phil Warren said. "We've had a great first half of the season, but now we're going to cherish these next four days off and try and regroup.
"The conforting thing in this is for me is that while we've had streaks where we've played very well, we have not clicked on all cylinders yet as a unit. We haven't seen these guys go off on a tear and hopefully we will in the second half of the season.''
Both Jensen and Bywater rolled through the first three innings.
Gateway threatened in the bottom of the first when Michael Johnson struck out but reached first on a wild pitch.
He then advanced to second on sacrifice bunt by Madison Beaird and three pitches later stole third base.
But Bywater got out of the jam by getting Niko Vasquez to ground out and striking out Landon Hernandez.
Bywater struck out five in the first two innings.
But the Miners batted around in a five-run fourth, taking a 5-0 lead.
Held hitless by Jensen through the first three innings, Southern Illinois got consecutive singles from Frank Martinez, Marquis Riley and Ryan Cavan to take a 1-0 lead.
Jensen also issued a bases-loaded walk and a run-scoring single to Jay Austin in the inning.
Jensen worked seven innings before being relieved by Chris Deboo.
Gateway finally got on the scoreboard in the fifth.
Held hitless by Bywater, Gateway manufactured a threat when with one out, Xavier Macklin and Tommy Richards drew back-to-back walks.
Bywater then fanned Johnson -- his eighth strike out of the day -- for the second out.
Macklin and Richards then pulled off a double steal and Beaird followed with his line-drive single to right, cutting the lead to 5-2.
Bywater was then relieved after walking Michael Wing to lead off the sixth.
The left-hander threw 95 pitches in his five-inning stint, striking our eight and walking eight.
Aaron Gates added an RBI ground out in the seventh, as the Miners' lead grew to 6-2 and Frank Martinez put the game away with a three-run home run in the eighth.
The Grizzlies will host the Frontier League All-tar game at GCS Ballpark on Wednesday beginning at 7:05 p.m.
Tickets for the game and for the home-run derby and a softball game -- both scheduled for Tuesday -- are still available.
All-Star week kicks off today, when the Chicago Bandits -- a professional women's softball team --will conduct a clinic at GCS Ballpark beginning at 1 p.m.
Walkups will be accepted and the cost is $75 per person. The price includes the clinic and one ticket to both the home-run derby and All-Star game
The clinic continues at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.