The fireworks display began earlier then expected on Friday at GCS Ballpark
Gateway catcher Tyler Tewell hit a fourth inning game-tying home run to ignite the offense as the suddenly surging Grizzlies treated a crowd of 4,072 to a power display rarely seen in a 6-2 win over the Florence Freedom.
Held to just two hits in the first three innings by Florence starter Jeremy Gooding, it was Tewell’s one-out home run which got Gateway even at 1 and paved the way for Gateway’s version of a home run derby over the next two innings.
Florence retook the lead in the top of the fifth, but back-to-back home runs by Sam Fischer and Logan Davis in the bottom of the inning gave Gateway the lead for good at 3-2. But the Grizzlies weren’t done.
In the sixth inning, Brandon Thomas connected for the Grizzlies fourth solo home run before Ben Waldrip followed later in the inning with a two-run home run to conclude the scoring as Gateway (14-18) posted its fourth straight win.
Grizzlies reliever Dakota Smith, who took over from starter Adam Eggnatz with two outs in the fifth inning, retired all 13 Freedom hitters he faced to pick up the win.
How it went
Eggnatz, who walked seven and threw 100 pitches in 4 2/3 innings on Friday, pitched out of trouble in the first and third innings. But the Freedom finally got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth. Andrew Godbold walked with one out and went to third base on a single by Jordan Brower.
Brower was then caught in a rundown between first and second base but during the play, Gateway first baseman Ben Waldrip’s throw in the rundown was wild and Godbold trotted home from third base with the first run of the game.
Florence starting pitcher Jeremy Gooding rolled through the first three innings before Tewell started the Grizzlies power display in the bottom of the fourth. The Grizzlies leading hitter with an average of .347 entering play on Friday, Tewell took a 2-2 pitch from Gooding over the right-field wall to tie the game at 1. The home run was Tewell’s sixth of the season.
Godbold then gave Florence (7-23) a 2-1 lead with a run-scoring double in the top of the fifth. The hit ended the night of Eggnatz, who struck out five in addition to walking seven.
But the lead didn’t last long as Fischer took an 0-1 pitch from Gooding over the centerfield fence to tie the score with one out in the fifth and three pitches later, Davis put Gateway ahead to stay with a line drive home run over the right-centerfield fence. The home run made the score 3-2 and was the first in a Gateway uniform for Davis.
Thomas then followed with his fifth home run in the sixth and Waldrip drove in Blake Brown with his second home run of the season four batters later.
All five home runs came off losing pitcher Jeremy Gooding.
A tough stretch
The Grizzlies-Freedom series continues on Saturday with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch and then on Sunday beginning at 6:05 p.m. The Grizzlies will then play 14 of their next 18 games away from the friendly confines of GCS Ballpark beginning on Tuesday when they travel to Normal to battle the Cornbelters to begin a nine-game road trip.
The Grizzlies will play their only home series during that stretch on July 1-4 against the River City Rascals.