In a night of great comebacks, the Gateway Grizzlies fell just short on Tuesday at GCS Ballpark.
Kurt Wertz Jr. broke a 14-all tie with a run scoring single in the 13th inning as Evansville defeated Gateway 16-14 in a game that lasted nearly five hours and featured 474 total pitches.
Tied at 6 after 10 innings, both the Otters and Grizzlies scored eight runs to send the game to a 14-all tie heading into the 12th.
Three consecutive home runs by the Otters Josh Allen — a grand slam -— followed by solo home runs by Dane Phillips and Chris Sweeney - highlighted an eight run Otters 11th inning as Evansville took a 14-6 lead.
But Gateway, which tied the game with single runs in both the ninth and tenth innings, wasn’t done yet. Sending 10 men to the plate, the Grizzlies staged the most remarkable rally in their 15 year history in the bottom of the inning with an eight run outburst of their own
A two-run single by Cody Livesay cut the lead to 14-11 and Madison Beaird, who had hit into a double play in the 10th inning, tied the game at 14 with a three-run home run.
Gateway loaded the bases in the 12th inning with one out but failed to get the winning run across
Gateway, looking for its third win in four games, twice came from behind. A solo home run by Blake Brown with two outs in the ninth tied the game at 5 and Cody Livesay tied the game at 6 in the tenth.
Gateway had a chance to win it later in the 10th, but Beaird grounded into a double play with the bases loaded.
The top team in the Frontier League, Evansville (42-19) took a 5-1 lead after 3 1/2 innings off Gateway starter Max Schonfeld as cleanup hitter Sweeney hit a two-run home run and Cory Urquhart hit a solo home run.
But Gateway (22-38), still riding a high after winning two of three games at Normal earlier in the week, chipped away against Olson and reliever Shane Weedman.
A home run by Ben Waldrip — his seventh of the season - in the fifth inning closed the Grizzlies to within 5-2 and when Seth Heck lined an RBI single in the sixth, Gateway was within 5-3.
Weedman then took over in the seventh and allowed a one out home run to Blake Brown — his team leading 13th — as the Grizzlies closed to within 5-4.
But Brown wasn’t done yet.
After Connor Little, the third pitcher used by Otters manager Andy McCauley, worked 1 1/3 perfect innings, closer Edgar Lopez quickly retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the ninth. But on a 3-2 pitch, Brown unloaded for the second time in three innings, as he hit his 14th home run of the season, a clout that sailed well over the right-field wall and sent the crowd of 2,028 into a frenzy.
With Evansville in possession of one of the Frontier League’s top pitching staffs — entering play on Tuesday with a team ERA OF 2.76 — Olson worked out of trouble in the bottom of the first. Gateway lead-off hitter Cody Livesay beat out an infield hit and when Beaird beat out a bunt single, Gateway had runners on first and second with nobody out.
But Olson got Ben Waldrip and Blake Brown on strike out and retired Tyler Tewell to ground out to end the threat. Gateway then threatened again in the second inning when Antonio Sandifer walked with two outs and advanced to second when Heck was hit by a pitch.
But again, Olson induced a weak ground out — this one by Livesay — to end the inning.
Schonfeld (2-6), entering the game with an ERA of 4.50, breezed through the first two innings before the Otters offense got rolling in the third inning. John Schultz led off with a walk and went to third on a double by Josh Allen.
Schultz then scored on a sacrifice by Phillips. Four pitches later, Sweeney gave the Otters a three run lead with his two-run home run which sailed well over the left field wall.
Gateway used its speed to get a run back in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs, Blake Brown coaxed a walk and promptly stole second and Tewell hammered a single to center field to make the score 3-1.
The Grizzlies rally was short-lived however as Urquhart cracked an opposite field home run to right field and Schultz added an RBI single in the fourth as the Otters took a 5-1 lead.
Waldrip cut the Grizzlies deficit to 5-2 in the fifth with a solo home run in the fifth and Heck drove a run scoring single in the sixth inning as Gateway closed to within 5-3.
Schonfeld worked six innings, allowing four earned runs, striking out two and walking two.
Grizzlies notes: The Grizzlies-Otters series continues on Wednesday and Thursday with both games set to begin at 7:05 p.m. Schaumburg invades GCS Ballpark for the first of a three game series on Friday at 7:05 p.m.
Grizzlies fans remain loyal: Despite a disappointing season that found them 15 games under .500 entering play on Tuesday, the Grizzlies continue to pack in the fans at GCS Ballpark. Gateway currently leads the Frontier League in attendance, drawing more than 3,200 fans per game.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.