The Gateway Grizzlies started their six game homestand with a 6-20 record and looking up at the rest of the teams in the Frontier League’s West Division.
They ended it Sunday still looking up, but they had closed the gap after a four-game winning streak.
Madison Beaird’s slow hit roller up the first-base line scored Cody Livesay with the winning run as the Grizzlies completed a three-game sweep of Windy City with a come-from-behind 6-5 win on Sunday at GCS Ballpark.
The Grizzlies (12-21), who rallied from two-run deficits twice, trailed 5-4 entering the bottom of the ninth after Johnathan Garcia’s second home run of the night had given Windy City a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning.
But when Rolando Gomez and Cody Livesay started the bottom of the ninth with singles, a Father’s Day crowd of 1,622 had hope.
Both runners then moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt by Jared Welch and when leadoff hitter Ryan Soares singled, Gomez scored to tie the game at 5.
Beaird then hit a pitch from ThunderBolts reliever James Jones up the first-base line, where Austin Gallagher fielded the ball and threw home.
The ball arrived before Livesay, who when making contact with catcher Larry Balkwell kicked the ball out of his glove.
Not sure whether he touched home plate, Livesay dove back and scored the winning run as the Grizzlies’ bench mobbed both him and Beaird in celebration.
“It’s just a matter of keep working and keep battling,’’ Beaird said. “We haven’t gotten a lot of breaks to go our way in the early part of the season. These last few games we’ve been able to get some big hits in crucial situations and we’ve been able to string a few wins together.
“I just was trying to put the ball in play and make something happen in the ninth inning. Cody (Livesay) made the play by kicking the ball out of the glove. We got a couple of breaks tonight.’’
Scott Harkin, the third of three pitchers used by manager Phil Warren, pitched the final two innings to get the win.
Starting pitcher Vincent Molesky, working on just three days rest, pitched 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander allowed four runs on nine hits and Windy City (14-17) hit three home runs.
But all were solo shots.
“I can live with that. He (Molesky) didn’t walk anybody and pitching on three days rest instead of four, he did a good job,’’ Warren said. “You could tell he was getting tired in the fifth. He got some pitches up and they (Windy City) hit them out. But again they were with nobody on base.
“I’ve never questioned the effort of our players and tonight, as we have all year, we just kept battling. This was a good homestand for us. But we’ve got a long way to go in all areas. We’ve got to continue to get better every day.’’
Trailing 4-2 after back-to-back home runs by Garcia and Gallagher in the top of the fifth, Gateway battled back for the second time in the game.
A single by Livesay and a throwing error by Windy City third baseman Jacob Tanis put a runner on second base with nobody out in the sixth inning.
Making his professional debut, Gateway catcher Jared Welch singled up the middle to score Livesay and make it 4-3.
Welch, who played at Emory University in Atlanta, was signed by Gateway on Sunday.
The Grizzlies tied the game at 4 in the sixth inning when Blake Brown reached on an infield single and scored on a single by Rolando Gomez.
But Garcia hit Gateway reliever Jordan Sechler’s second pitch in the seventh over the left-center field fence to give Windy City its last lead at 5-4.
But for the third time on a hot, humid Sunday night, the Grizzlies battled back.
Gateway starter Vincent Molesky, who allowed only three runs in the Grizzlies’ 5-3 win over River City on Wednesday, struggled in the first inning against the ThunderBolts.
After striking out Coco Johnson to start the game, Molesky threw a 1-1 pitch that Windy City second baseman put over the right-field wall for a 1-0 lead.
Johnathan Garcia and Austin Gallagher followed with singles, but Molesky got out of the inning by striking out Jacob Tanis and getting Marquis Rilery to pop out.
Windy City then made it 2-0 in the third inning when Johnson reached on an error by Gateway third baseman Grant Buckner. After stealing second base and moving to third on a ground out, Johnson scored on an RBI ground out by Garcia.
Held in check by Windy City starting pitcher Travis Tingle for the first three innings, the Grizzlies broke through in the fourth.
Madison Beaird walked to lead off and went to second base on a ground out. After Blake Brown struck out for the second out of the inning, Richard Seigel lined a sharp single up the middle and Beaird scored the Grizzlies first run of the night.
Two pitches later, Grant Buckner hit a ground-rule double which scored Seigel and tied it at 2.
Windy City retook the lead in the top of the fifth on the back-to-back homers from Garcia and Gallagher.
Gateway takes to the road beginning on Tuesday for a three-game series at Lake Erie, (Ohio). The Grizzlies are just 3-11 away from GCS Ballpark this year. Gateway returns home Friday tor the first of a three-game series against Rockford beginning at 7:05 p.m.
Southern Illinois and the Frontier Greys wil also make appearances at GCS Ballpark during an eight-game homestand, which runs through July 4.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.