The cozy dimensions of GCS Ballpark continued to be a haven for the Rockford Aviators on Friday, who posted a 9-4 win over the Gateway Grizzlies.
Catcher Tyler Smith had a run-scoring single and added a sacrifice fly to lead the way for an Aviators offense, which collected 13 hits and scored in six of nine innings against four Gateway pitchers, as they collected their fourth win in four games at GCS this season.
In its four wins at GCS Ballpark, Rockford has outscored Gateway 35-9.
In improving to 14-4 on the road, Rockford (24-11) scored a run in the second inning off Gateway starting and losing pitcher Troy Barton, then added two runs in both the fourth and fifth inning to take a commanding 5-0 lead.
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Southpaw Payton Baskette and four relievers helped keep a struggling Gateway’ offense in check, as the Grizzlies lost for the fourth straight game.
“That’s an offensive ballclub and they came out and hit the ball hard against us. You’ve got to tip your hat to them. They had a good approach against our pitchers and we didn’t make the proper adjustments,’’ Grizzlies manager Phil Warren said. “Troy (Barton) had a sub-par night, got some pitches up in the strike zone and they (Rockford) took advantage of their opportunities.’’
Trailing 5-0 after 4 1/2 innings, Gateway (12-25) closed to within 5-3 against Rockford starter Payton Baskette in its half of the fifth.
Designated hitter Craig Massoni had a two-run double and catcher Jared Welch added a run-scoring single to highlight the inning.
Baskette, who allowed six earned runs and seven hits in just 1 1/3 innings in his only other appearance of the season, did not allow a ball to be hit out of the infield until Jared Welch hit a ball to the left-field warning track for the final out of the third inning.
Entering the game with a 40.50 ERA, Baskette then allowed his first baserunner when Ryan Soares singled with one out in the fourth inning.
Soares then advanced to second on an error by shortstop Brian Bistagne when he bobbled a slowly hit ground ball by Madison Beaird.
Baskette got out of the jam when Blake Brown rolled into a double play.
Entering the game with best record in the Frontier League and a 12 game lead over Gateway, which sits last in the West Division, the Aviators were flying high early against Gateway starter Troy Barton (0-2).
Back-to-back singles by Devon Rodriguez and Brian Bistagne put runners on first and second with nobody out in the second inning and the first run of the game scored when Tyler Smith grounded into a double play.
The Aviators added two runs in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Smith and a run-scoring single by Anthony Renteria. They then made it 5-0 in the fifth on a sacrifice fly Dusty Robinson and an RBI single by Bistagne.
But held to one hit by Baskette through 4 1/3 innings, the Grizzlies bats came alive.
Grant Buckner singled with one out in the fifth and went to third on a double by Rolando Gomez. Massoni then followed with a double off the left-field wall to make the score 5-2.
Welch then hit a line drive up the right-center field alley for a triple, as the Grizzlies closed to within 5-3.
Baskette then got Cody Livesay to ground a slow roller to third baseman Greg Velazquez, who threw to the plate to get the sliding Welch for the second out of the inning. Ryan Soares then flew out to end the inning.
The Grizzlies-Aviators series continues Saturday at 7:05 p.m and concludes Sunday with a 6:05 p.m. first pitch. After a day off on Monday, Gateway continues its longest homestand of the season with a three-game series against Southern Illinois beginning Tuesday. Frontier is in town for single games on July 3 and July 4.
The Grizzlies season long struggles away from GCS Ballpark continued when they were outscored 18-2 in a three game series sweep at Lake Erie. Gateway, which has lost eight straight games on the road, has just one win away from home in June and is 3-14 for the year.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.