Making his professional debut, Aviston native Trevor Richards was nervous before taking the mound for the Gateway Grizzlies on Friday against the Windy City ThunderBolts.
But then the game started.
Richards limited the red-hot ThunderBolts to three runs in five innings while teammate Grant Buckner hit a three-run home run and drove in four runs as Gateway held on for a 6-5 Frontier League win.
“I was nervous before the game. I hadn’t thrown for a while and pitching here with a lot of family and friends watching,’’ Richards said. “But when the game got started and I was able to settle in, the nerves seemed to go away.
“My goal was to just stay relaxed and get ahead of the hitters. It feels good to get the first game under my belt.’’
Mired in a slump, Buckner hit his three-run homer in the third inning and added an RBI double in the fifth for the Grizzlies (10-21), who used the big night by the veteran along with the strong pitching of Richards and three relievers to knock off Windy City.
The ThunderBolts entered the game winners of 10 of their last 11 games.
“We’ve played much better here the last four of five games,’’ Grizzlies manager Phil Warren said. “I thought Trevor (Richards) did a real good job. He got ahead of the hitters. You could tell he was running out of gas there in the fifth when he was getting some pitches up. The bullpen did a good job.
“I thought this was a great game. It was well played by both teams with good defense and timely hitting.’’
The win, the third in four games for Gateway, comes one day after the Grizzlies’ dramatic 3-2 win over River City.
Trailing 2-0 with two outs in the ninth, Gateway tied the game on back-to-back home runs by Blake Brown and Madison Beaird then won the game in the 11th on a wild pitch.
A 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander, Richards is a 2011 graduate of Mater Dei who played at Drury College in Springfield, Mo. After posting marks of 9-4 with a 2.43 ERA as a sophomore and 8-2 with a 1.71 ERA as a junior, Richards was 5-3 with a 3.61 ERA as a senior.
Pitching in front of a crowd of 3,326 at GCS Ballpark on a cool overcast night, Richards showed no signs of jitters as he breezed through the ThunderBolts in the first two innings.
That is, with the help of his defense.
Richards allowed a one-out single to Michael Torres in the first inning, but got out of any potential trouble by getting Johnathan Garcia to ground into a double play.
Windy City threatened in the third, but a sensational play by shortstop Rolando Gomez prevented the ThunderBolts from getting on the scoreboard. Windy City had runners on first and second with two outs, but Richards got Torres to ground out to end the threat.
The ThunderBolts finally got to Richards in the fifth inning.
Silenced on three hits by Richards through the first four innings, the Thunderbolts (15-15) sent eight men to the plate and got RBI singles from Max White, Coco Johnson and Garcia to cut the lead to 4-3.
Richards finished the night giving up three runs on seven hits. He struck out four and walked one
The Grizzlies took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when Grant Buckner beat out an infield single and went to second base when Windy City starter Zak Wasserman walked Gomez.
One out later, Cody Livesay grounded a single up the middle to score Buckner.
The Grizzles expanded their lead in the bottom of the third with a little help from Wasserman.
Madison Beaird walked to lead off and one out later was erased when Blake Brown hit into a fielder’s choice.
With two outs, Tyler Tewell hit a slow roller between the pitcher’s mound and first base. Wasserman, however, failed to cover first base and Tewell reached on an infield single.
One pitch later, Buckner hit a line-drive home run over the center-field fence and the Grizzlies had a 4-0 lead.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.