After nearly two days and 16 very long innings, the Gateway Grizzlies finally found a way to stop the Frontier League’s top team on Wednesday at GCS Ballpark.
And his name was Dakota Smith.
Pitching in relief of starter Jason Ziegler, Smith shut down the Otters attack with three scoreless innings as Gateway sent a sparse crowd of 1,678 home happy with a 9-7 win.
One night after the Grizzlies and Otters battled for four hours and 28 minutes and combined for 30 runs and 38 hits in a 13 inning marathon won by Evansville 16-14, the bats were alive again.
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But on this night it was the Grizzlies (23-38) who came out on top as designated hitter Craig Massoni hit a two-run home run and drove in three runs and veteran Ben Waldrip added a two-run single to pace the Grizzlies nine-hit attack.
Entering the game with one out in the third inning, Smith walked two and hit a third Otters batter with a pitch, but after striking out Josh Allen with runners in scoring position to end the threat, he was in total control over the next three innings.
Smith allowed just one hit and struck out seven in his 3 2/3 inning stint. Ross Spurgeon allowed a two-run home run to Dane Phillips in the eighth inning as Evansville closed to within 9-7. But Grizzlies closer Tyler Thompson recorded a 1-2-3 ninth inning to preserve the win for Smith
The Otters (42-20), who hit six home runs in the series opening win on Tuesday, didn’t wait long to go deep against Gateway starter Jason Ziegler. Just four pitches into the game, Otters second baseman Josh Allen hit his second home run of the series to put his team up 1-0.
It was Allen’s grand slam home run that highlighted Evansville’s eight run 11th inning on Tuesday.
An infield single by John Schultz scored Nik Balog in the second inning as Evansville increased its lead to 2-0. But Gateway bounced back in the bottom of the second to take its first lead of the series.
Blake Brown led off by drawing walk and went to third on a ground rule double by Tyler Tewell. Brown then scored when Vail unleashed a wild pitch. On the verge of getting out of the inning without any further damage after retiring Grant Buckner and Richard Siegel, Vail threw an 0-1 pitch to Massoni who smashed it well over the left-field wall for a 3-2 Grizzlies lead.
But Ziegler, making his first professional start, couldn’t get out of the third inning. Signed to a contract on Saturday, Ziegler gave up three runs in the third and left in favor of Smith with Evansville leading 5-3.
But the Grizzlies bats came alive and Smith and the rest of the Grizzlies bullpen made sure the Otters offense was silenced for most of the rest of the night.
Gateway took the lead with four runs in the fourth off Evansville starter Tyler Vail. Tewell led off with a solo home run on a 2-2 pitch to cut the lead Otters lead to 5-4 and when Cody Livesay’s slowly hit ground ball scored Grant Buckner later in the inning the game was tied at 5.
One batter later, Waldrip gave Gateway the lead with a two-run single to make the score 7-5. Massoni added a run-scoring single and Antonio Sandifer drove in the Grizzlies ninth run of the night with an RBI ground out
On deck: The Otters and Grizzlies will conclude their three-game series on Thursday with a 7:05 p.m. game. Schaumburg then comes to GCS Ballpark for a weekend series beginning on Friday at 7:05 p.m.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.