Defense, big clutch hitting help Gateway Grizzlies snap 10-game losing skid

The Gateway Grizzlies’ Adam Eggnatz delivers a pitch against the Normal Cornbelters during Friday’s game at GCS Ballpark. See a gallery of photographs at
The Gateway Grizzlies’ Adam Eggnatz delivers a pitch against the Normal Cornbelters during Friday’s game at GCS Ballpark. See a gallery of photographs at Special to the News-Democrat

Thankfully for the Gateway Grizzlies, the long losing streak is over.

Sam Fischer broke a 3-all tie with with a sixth inning run-scoring single and six pitchers combined to hold the Normal Cornbelters in check as Gateway broke a 10-game losing streak with a 6-3 win on a warm Friday evening at GCS Ballpark in Frontier League action.

Gateway (10-16) had been outscored 56-24 in the past 10 games and hadn’t won since beating Florence 2-1 on May 29. The Grizzlies got RBI’s from Cody Livesay and Logan Davis in its three-run outburst off losing pitcher Eddie Cody as Gateway gave a friendly crowd of 3,442 something to cheer about for the first time in 13 days with the win.

Nate Carter, the third pitcher used by veteran manager Phil Warren, picked up the win for Gateway, which entered the contest only two losses away from the franchise record of 12 that occured in the 2006 season.

But thanks to a stellar night from second baseman Seth Heck, who had three hits and helped preserve a tie game in the top of the sixth inning with a diving stop which he turned into a double play and clutch hitting from several other players, Gateway sent Normal to its 16th loss in 25 games.

Jordan Wellander, Jon Jones and JaVaun West held Normal scoreless for the final three innings.

West retired the final Cornbelter with runners on second and third base in the top of the ninth inning to preserve the victory for Gateway.

How it went

Normal took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when with one out Nolan Meadows singled and went to third when Elijah Trail doubled off the glove of Gateway center fielder Brandon Thomas. Meadows then scored on an RBI groundout by Mike Fish.

Gateway tied it in the bottom of the second on singles by Thomas and Heck. With two outs, Thomas and Heck worked the double steal to perfection, moving to second and third base. Thomas then scored two pitches later when Cornbelters starting pitcher Eddie Cody unleashed a wild pitch.

Gateway took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth when Tyler Tewell and Heck singled and Thomas walked to load the bases with one out. After Cody Livesay popped out, Logan Davis hit a line drive which deflected off of second baseman Santiago Chirino’s glove for a two-base error allowing Tewell and Thomas to score the go-ahead runs.

Normal scored single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to tie the score at 3. With the bases loaded and two outs, Meadows singled to make the score 3-2, but the potential tying run was cut down at the plate when Grizzlies left fielder Sam Fischer threw a strike to catcher Tewell. Normal loaded the bases again in the sixth and tied the game on a bases loaded walk to Dylan Kelly. Aaron Dudley then lined a pitch headed for right field that the Grizzlies’ Heck stabbed and turned into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.

Using the mommentum of Heck’s play in the top of the inning, Gateway took the lead for good in the bottom of sixth.

Tyler Tewell led off with a ground rule double and scored one out later when Fischer singled through a drawn-in Cornbelters infield. Heck then singled for the third straight time and Livesay made it 5-3 with a line drive single to center field. Davis then singled in Heck with an insurance tally to make the score 6-3.

On deck

The Grizzlies-Cornbelters series continues on Saturday with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch. The series concludes on Sunday with a 6:05 p.m. contest.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean

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