Finally, some good news from GCS Ballpark.
Gateway rookie Max Schonfeld and three relievers combined to hold the River City offense in check and the Grizzlies broke open a close game with a six-run seventh inning as they went on for a 12-2 win.
Just 2-8 at home and in last place in the Frontier League’s West Division going into Friday. Gateway (6-14) got a two-run single from Shawn Payne in the second inning to take the lead and never trailed. Schonfeld (1-1) blanked the Rascals for 5 2/3 innings and left with Gateway holding a 3-0 lead.
The Grizzlies then broke the game open in a seventh inning which featured three River City errors and was highlighted by a Garrett Vail two-run single. Ben Waldrip then gave the paid crowd of 2,135 one more highlight with a three-run home run in the eighth inning.
“It feels good to come out and get a few runs. It’s been a tough start but we’re making progress. Right now, it’s just a matter of taking one game at a time and trying to win series,’ Grizzlies manager Phil Warren said. “Our defense was very good tonight, turning three double plays and our middle infield of (second baseman) Ryan (Soares) and (shortstop) Rolando (Gomez) both made great plays.
“Max (Schonfeld) did a good job. He got behind some hitters early, but I thought he did a better job later on. If he doesn’t get the ball down and get the batters to hit the ball on the ground, we don’t get the chance to turn those double plays. It was a team effort.”
Coming off a 13-3 win over Evansville on Thursday, the win is Gateway’s second in a row and marks only the second time all season it has won consecutive games.
And if Schonfeld’s performance is any indication, Gateway might finally be headed in the right direction.
Throwing 74 pitches, including 42 strikes, in his 5 2/3 innings, Schonfeld was helped by a near-flawless Grizzlies defense which turned double plays in the first and fourth innings to end potential Rascals’ scoring chances.
The win is the first as a professional for Schonfeld.
“It feels great to get that first one,’’ Schonfeld said. “I struggled a little bit with my location early in the game, got behind the hitters a little too much. But the defense was just great behind me. It wasn’t until later in the game where I was able to get ahead of the hitters a little more.’’
Leading 9-0 following its seventh-inning outburst, the Grizzlies’ shutout bid ended when River City’s Josh Ludy and Taylor Ard hit back-to-back home runs in the eighth.
Entering the game with a 4.02 ERA, Schonfeld was coming off his shortest start as a professional in the Grizzlies’ 6-4 loss to Washington on May 30, when he gave up six runs in six 2 2/3 innings.
River City had its chances as it collected five hits in the first four innings.
But the Grizzlies defense turned a pair of double plays and got big defensive play from shortstop Rolando Gomez, who went deep in the hole to rob River City lead-off hitter Curran Redal of a hit to start the game.
River City starter Santos Saldivar retired the first four Gateway hitters before Ben Waldrip singled with one out in the second inning. After Grant Buckner was retired for the second out, Richard Seigel walked to put runners on first and second. base.
Payne then followed when he hit the first pitch from Saldivar into the left-center field gap for a double. Both runners scored to give Gateway a 2-0 lead.
The Grizzlies made it 3-0 in the fourth inning when Saldivar walked Seigel and gave up singles to Garrett Vail and Madison Beaird to load the bases. Ryan Soares then hit a sacrifice fly to score Seigel
The Rascals had their first scoring chance of the game in the fifth inning, loading the bases with two outs. But once again, Schonfeld got out of the jam by getting Saxon Butler on a weak ground ball to first baseman Ben Waldrip for the final out of the inning.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.