The Gateway Grizzlies got a lot accomplished in claiming a 5-4 win over the Rockford Aviators, Wednesday night at Aviators Stadium in Loves Park, Ill.
The victory was Gateway’s fifth in its last six games. The Grizzlies have now won all four series they have played this season. And now, they are the sole possessors of first place in the Frontier League West Division, with an 8-3 record.
Rockford, which has the worst record in the Frontier League this season, is now 1-10 on the year.
On Wednesday, in front of an announced crowd of 2,852, the Aviators suffered their ninth straight loss, despite grabbing an early lead on a solo home run by native St. Louisan and former Grizzlie Evan Button.
Rockford also scored three times in the bottom of the ninth, but it still wasnt enough to overtake the red-hot Grizzlies, who answered the Aviators’ initial score with two runs of their own in the top of the fifth, then broke the game open with three runs in the seventh.
Cleanup hitter Landon Hernandez got the first rally started, when he led off with a basehit to centerfield. Teammate Jet Butler then moved him to third, with a line-shot double to left field.
That brought up the Frontier League’s leading hitter Jon Myers, who struck out. But the next two Gateway batters, Vladimir Frias and Antone DeJesus picked up their club and gave the Grizzlies the lead, on a sacrifice fly by Frias and two-out single by DeJesus.
In the seventh, DeJesus got another two-out rally started when he reached on an infield single. No. 9 hitter Michael Pair followed with a single, and then the pair pulled off a sensational double-steal, before leadoff man Jonathan Johnson walked to load the bases.
Alex Guthrie walked to drive in a run and make it 3-1 Gateway.
But the big blow, which also proved to be the game-winning blow, came off the bat of Jose Flores, who drove in the final two Gateway runs with a single to right.
The Grizzlies almost got a third run on the play, but Guthrie was thrown out at the plate trying to score.
Rockford’s Chase Larsson, who was on base all four times he batted on Wednesday, drove in two of the three runs that scored in the ninth for the Aviators, with a triple into the left-centerfield gap. He then scored himself on a wild pitch, before Gateway’s Zac Treece was finally able to put the game away with a groundball out from Alvaro Ramirez.
Starter Ja’Vaun West (2-0) was the winning pitcher for the Grizzlies.
The second-year righthander from Atlanta, Mo., turned in what may have been his been performance as a professional, going seven innings and allowing just one run on five hits, with five strikeouts and three walks.
West mostly worked as a reliever for Gateway previously, making only three starts in his 20 appearances last season, and never going further than the five innings he’d gone in his first two starts this season.
The Frontier League West leaders will go for the sweep in the series finale on Thursday, with righthander Chris Enourato (1-0) getting the start, while Rockford will go with veteran lefthander Jon Gulbransen (0-1).
First pitch at Aviators Stadium is set for 7:05 p.m.
The Grizzlies will then return home on Friday, for a three-game weekend series at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, against the Traverse City Beach Bums.