After breaking a 1-1 tie with a run in the top half of the ninth inning at All Pro Freight Stadium, the Gateway Grizzlies fell 3-2 to the Lake Erie Crushers on a two-run walk-off homer from Juan Avila in the bottom half of the frame.
Ben Waldrip drove in the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly against Crushers reliever Trevor Longfellow before Avila’s heroics won it. The Grizzlies (9-8) then looked for an insurance run with a runner on second and one out, but reliever Mike Devine (3-1) struck out Blake Brown and Vin Guglietti to strand the runner there.
Gateway closer JaVaun West (0-1), who had been perfect in four save chances, came on with the Grizzlies leading 2-1. West hit Will Beckwith on a 2-2 pitch to start the inning and then Avila followed with his fifth home run of the season to win it for Lake Erie (9-5).
Grizzlies right-hander Trevor Richards was splendid in seven innings of work to start Gateway’s six-game road trip in the Frontier League. After allowing an unearned run in the first inning, Richards settled down to allow just four hits and match a career-high with nine strikeouts.
Pitcher Fernando Gallegos was just as good for the Crushers, as he also allowed just an unearned run while giving up three hits.
Gallegos retired 10 batters in a row to start the game, but the Grizzlies received back-to-back singles from Logan Davis and Craig Massoni to threaten in the fourth. Waldrip then hit a ground ball that was mishandled by Beckwith at first base, allowing Davis to cross home plate.
With the score tied at 1-1, it became a battle of the bullpens starting in the eighth. Right-hander Devin Malone pitched a scoreless eighth for Lake Erie while southpaw Jon Jones did the same for the Grizzlies in the bottom half.
The Grizzlies and Crushers continue their three-game set on Wednesday. First pitch is at 6:05 p.m. CDT. Gateway sends right-hander Will Landsheft (1-1, 4.23 ERA) to the hill while Lake Erie counters with right-hander Jordan Kraus, who makes his season debut.
The game can be heard on the Grizzlies Radio Network, which airs Wednesday’s game on 1400 AM KJFF and www.GatewayGrizzlies.com/Radio. Broadcaster Sam Levitt will call all of the action.