On a night when a crowd of 6,842— the 13th largest in Gateway franchise history — jammed into GCS Ballpark for a Fourth of July weekend fireworks display, the Grizzlies’ offense provided some of its own with a little ninth-inning magic.
Grant Buckner dribbled an infield single off Frontier pitcher Brett Shankin’s glove to score Rolando Gomez with the winning run in the ninth inning as the Grizzlies thrilled the home fans with a 5-4 win.
At the low point of its season at 15 games under .500 entering Friday, Gateway trailed 4-1 going into the bottom of the ninth and seemed destined for its eighth loss in nine games.
Then it happened
Shankin, the fourth pitcher used by Frontier manager Vinny Ganz, walked Richard Seigel and when Cody Livesay singled and Ryan Soares reached when Greys left fielder Shane Brown dropped a fly ball for an error, Gateway had the bases loaded.
Shankin walked Rolando Gomez to force in a run, making it 4-2.
Blake Brown and Ben Waldrip then followed with run-scoring singles, tying it at 4.
Buckner, appearing to be fooled on a 1-2 pitch, then hit a roller that tipped off of Shankin’s glove, and Gomez raced home with the winning run.
As Gomez crossed home plate, the Grizzlies mobbed Buckner in celebration.
“I just wanted to make contact. Put the ball in play and see what happened,’’ Buckner said. “This is a big win for us. Hopefully we can build on it.’’
Jordan Wallander picked up the win for Gateway (14-28), which broke a three-game losing streak and improved to 2-5 on its eight-game home stand.
“I’m excited and I’m happy that we won the game. But we’ve had emotional, late-inning games that we’ve come back to win before this year. But we haven’t been able to build on it. Hopefully we can build on this one tonight,’’ Grizzlies manager Phil Warren said. “The thing I’m most happy with is that we kept battling in the ninth inning.
“We didn’t hit every ball hard in the last inning, but we put the ball in play and made them (Frontier). If we strike out in that situation, they don’t have to make plays, We gave ourselves a chance and tonight it turned out in our favor.’’
Frontier was in control for the first eight innings.
Brandon Tierney hit a two-run home run and Jhiromir Veras clubbed a solo shot while four Frontier pitchers combined to hold Gateway’s offense to just five hits.
Tierney broke up an early pitchers duel between Gateway’s Vincent Molesky and Greys starter Bobby Shore when he hit a two-run homer with one out in the fourth inning.
Veras added his solo home run an inning later and Dillon Haupt contributed an RBI triple in the sixth.
The Grizzlies had two early chances to take the lead against Shore.
With one out in the first inning Ryan Soares and Rolando Gomez had consecutive singles to put runners on first and second. But Shore struck out Brown and Waldrip to end the threat.
Soares and Gomez reached again in the third inning, this time with two outs. Shore got out of the inning again when Brown’s well-hit line drive was caught caught short of the warning track by Greys center fielder Ben Lodge.
Like Shore, Molesky rolled through the first three innings. Getting a nifty 3-6-3 double play to help, Molesky faced the minimum nine hitters and when Shane Brown grounded out to start the fourth, it looked like the Grizzlies right-hander would continue to cruise.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.