The Gateway Grizzlies roller-coaster season continued on its upswing on Friday at GCS Ballpark.
Craig Massoni hit his seventh homer run of the year — a two run clout in the fourth inning — and four Gateway pitchers combined to hold the River City Rascals offense in check as the Grizzlies remained red-hot with a 5-3 win.
A crowd of 6,165 was on hand on a picture-perfect night for baseball on Friday and while the Grizzlies execution was far from perfect it was good enough as they won for the 11th time in the last 16 games and move a game about the .500 mark for the season at 22-21.
Starting pitcher Adam Eggnatz worked the first 5 2/3 innings to get the win while Jordan Wellander and Will LaMarche worked out of major jams before Kevin Jefferis worked the ninth inning to pick up the save.
LaMarche worked out of bases loaded, nobody out situation in the eighth inning to preserve a 4-2 Gateway lead. The Grizzlies added an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth to increase their lead to 5-2 before River City centerfielder Alexi Colon hit a solo home run off Jefferis in the the ninth to close out the scoring.
“We’re competing better,” veteran Grizzlies manager Phil Warren said when asked the reason for the Grizzlies’ recent success on the diamond. “This game tonight wasn’t how we drew it up and we’ve got a lot of areas in which we still need to improve on. But we got a good effort from the relievers and we did enough good things to win the ball game.
“I’m proud of my team. We found a way to get the “W’ even when we didn’t play our best.”
How it went
Gateway took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning off River City starting and losing pitcher Josh Wright. Struggling with his control throughout his 2 2/3-inning outing, Wright walked Cody Livesay to lead off and Seth Heck followed with a sharp single up the middle to put runners on first and second with nobody out.
After walking Massoni to load the bases, Wright walked Brandon Thomas to force in the first run of the game. It could have been an even bigger inning for the Grizzlies, but after retiring Tyler Tewell, Wright got Blake Brown to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat.
After working around a two-out walk in the second, Thomas’ night ended in the third inning. Massoni singled to lead off and went to second base when Thomas walked. Three hitters later, Ben Waldrip singled in Massoni with the Grizzlies second run of the night.
Gateway added a pair of runs in the fourth off Rascals reliever Reese Gregory. With two outs, Heck singles for his second hit of the night and when Massoni took a 1-2 pitch over the left field wall for his seventh home run of the season.
Eggnatz, who entered his start on Friday with a 3.47 ERA, stranded runners on first and third in the first inning and was breezing along with a two-hit shutout through five innings before River City cut a 4-0 Grizzlies lead in half in the top of the sixth.
Alexi Colon led off with a double down the rightfield line and scored when Grizzlies third baaseman Josh Bunselmeyer committed an error on a ground ball hit by catcher Mike Jurgella.
River City eventually loaded the bases against Eggnatz who after getting Jason Merjano for the second out of the inning was taken out in favor of Jordan Wellander. The Rascals added their second run of the inning when Grizzlies catcher Tyler Tewell was charged with a passed ball.
A big weekend ahead
The Grizzlies-Rascals series continues on Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at 5:05 p.m. There will be single games on Sunday and Monday beginning at 6:35 p.m. both nights. Celebrating the Fourth of July weekend, there will be fireworks following on all three nights.