After breaking a 1-1 tie with a run in the top half of the ninth inning at All Pro Freight Stadium, the Gateway Grizzlies fell 3-2 to the Lake Erie Crushers on a two-run walk-off homer from Juan Avila in the bottom half of the frame.
Ben Waldrip drove in the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly against Crushers reliever Trevor Longfellow before Avila’s heroics won it. The Grizzlies (9-8) then looked for an insurance run with a runner on second and one out, but reliever Mike Devine (3-1) struck out Blake Brown and Vin Guglietti to strand the runner there.
Gateway closer JaVaun West (0-1), who had been perfect in four save chances, came on with the Grizzlies leading 2-1. West hit Will Beckwith on a 2-2 pitch to start the inning and then Avila followed with his fifth home run of the season to win it for Lake Erie (9-5).
Grizzlies right-hander Trevor Richards was splendid in seven innings of work to start Gateway’s six-game road trip in the Frontier League. After allowing an unearned run in the first inning, Richards settled down to allow just four hits and match a career-high with nine strikeouts.
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Pitcher Fernando Gallegos was just as good for the Crushers, as he also allowed just an unearned run while giving up three hits.
Gallegos retired 10 batters in a row to start the game, but the Grizzlies received back-to-back singles from Logan Davis and Craig Massoni to threaten in the fourth. Waldrip then hit a ground ball that was mishandled by Beckwith at first base, allowing Davis to cross home plate.
With the score tied at 1-1, it became a battle of the bullpens starting in the eighth. Right-hander Devin Malone pitched a scoreless eighth for Lake Erie while southpaw Jon Jones did the same for the Grizzlies in the bottom half.
The Grizzlies and Crushers continue their three-game set on Wednesday. First pitch is at 6:05 p.m. CDT. Gateway sends right-hander Will Landsheft (1-1, 4.23 ERA) to the hill while Lake Erie counters with right-hander Jordan Kraus, who makes his season debut.
The game can be heard on the Grizzlies Radio Network, which airs Wednesday’s game on 1400 AM KJFF and www.GatewayGrizzlies.com/Radio. Broadcaster Sam Levitt will call all of the action.