One of the truly fun days of the Frontier League baseball season went off without a hitch Wednesday afternoon at GCS Ballpark, as the Gateway Grizzlies celebrated “Kids Splash Day” with more than 4,000 youngsters in the ballpark looking to get wet and watch a baseball game.
By the end of the day, a total of 4,427 fans had fun at GCS in nearly every way possible, as the kids were able to cool off in the 90-degree heat, thanks to all the great water games, while the Grizzlies themselves stayed red-hot with a 3-2 win over the visiting Frontier Greys.
Gateway has now won six straight games, and following the loss the occurred later in the evening by the Normal CornBelters, the Grizzlies have also vaulted back into first place in the Frontier League West Division standings with a 15-7 record.
Normal is now a half-game back at 15-8.
Cleanup hitter Landon Hernandez had two hits and drove in two runs for Gateway on Wednesday, including a clutch two-out single in the bottom of the eighth inning that drove in leadoff man Jonathan Johnson with the game-winning run.
Hernandez also drove in Johnson with the game’s first run, with a sacrifice fly in the first inning.
The Grizzlies actually led 2-0 after the first, but the Greys were able to tie the score in the top of the second, thanks to a two-run home run by first baseman Balbino Fuenmayor.
From that point on, Wednesday’s game turned into an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, as Gateway’s Gregg Downing and the Greys’ Eric Wooten took turns mowing down both teams’ hitters.
Downing, a first-year Grizzlie who was in spring training with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization this season, went seven innings and only allowed five hits and two runs, while striking out a career-high 11.
Wooten though, was just about as good, as he also went seven innings and only allowed two runs and five hits.
The 2011 Baltimore Orioles fifth-round draft pick only struck out six, but he also didn’t walk anyone.
Gateway’s Zac Treece (3-0) pitched a perfect eighth for the Grizzlies, and became the pitcher of record when Hernandez’s bullet up the middle gave the home team the lead for good.
Closer Richard Barrett then came in to throw a perfect ninth to pick up his Frontier League-leading seventh save of the season.
Former Kansas City Royals farmhand Dillon Wilson (0-1) took the loss for the Greys.
Gateway will go for the sweep on Thursday at GCS, with righthander Chris Enourato (1-2) making the start for the Grizzlies, and fellow righty Graham Johnson (1-2) getting the ball for the Greys.
First pitch on Thursday night is set for 7:05 p.m.
After the game, the Grizzlies will hold their first ever “Bachelor Auction”, where four lucky lady fans could win the chance to go on a date with a Grizzlies player.