Even with the second-place Schaumburg Boomers nipping at their heels, the Gateway Grizzlies were able to maintain their hold on first place in the Frontier League West Division standings, and clinch a winning homestand Friday night, by claiming an impressive 11-4 victory over the visiting Rockford Aviators at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill.
Gateway, which has held first place in the West for most of the season, has seen its lead in the division cut to just one-half game this week, thanks to Schaumburg’s red-hot streak of 11 wins in its last 12 games, including five straight victories this week.
At the same time, the Grizzlies have won just four of nine games since July 31, which has allowed the Boomers to gain significant ground in a fairly short period of time.
On Friday though, as Schaumburg (43-29) was finishing off a sweep of the Normal CornBelters, Gateway won its second straight over Rockford to move to 44-29 — the best record in the Frontier League this season — to stay just ahead of the Boomers, who will host a doubleheader against the Evansville Otters at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg, Ill., on Saturday.
The victory also allowed the Grizzlies to finish off their homestand with a 4-2 mark, giving Gateway is sixth winning homestand in eight opportunities. The Grizzlies also have the best home record in the league this year at 27-13.
A crowd of 4,753 saw three Grizzlie players produce multi-hit games in a 10-hit combined effort, which included three hits apiece by shortstop Vladimir Frias and third baseman Chris McClendon, and a two-hit night for left fielder Jon Myers, including his league-leading 18th home run of the season.
Frias, who was 3-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs scored, blasted two homers on the night — his sixth and seventh jacks of the season — while McClendon raised his Frontier League leading batting average to .344, with a 3-for-4 night, which included three RBIs and a run scored.
The only downer on the night for Gateway was the early exit for starting pitcher Jake Stephens, who was cruising along with a big lead and already one out in the top of the fifth, when he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Rockford’s Brandon Newton.
Stephens, who had only allowed one run in 4 1/3 innings work up to that point, with his team leading 7-1, had to leave the game before he was officially able to qualify for the win.
Reliever Chris Enourato took over at that point, and pitched two scoreless innings. But he did walk five batters, with only one strikeout, causing the GCS official scorer to deem he didn’t deserve the win Friday night either.
So the victory actually went to Gateway’s fourth and final pitcher of the night, second-year man Jason Sullivan (3-1), whose last win came almost a month ago, when he helped the Grizzlies hold off Evansville in a 9-7 victory on July 12.
Rockford starter Nick Anderson (4-7) took the loss for the Aviators — his third in his last four starts — after giving up eight runs on eight hits in his six innings of work.
Gateway’s next home game is Wednesday, August 14, when the Grizzlies will host the River City Rascals at GCS.
This weekend, Gateway will head to Michigan for a huge three-game series against the East Division-leading Traverse City Beach Bums (43-29).
GATEWAY GRIZZLIES REMAINING SCHEDULE
August 10 at Traverse City Beach Bums ….. 6:05 p.m.
August 11 at Traverse City Beach Bums ….. 4:05 p.m.
August 12 at Traverse City Beach Bums ….. 6:05 p.m.
August 14 vs. River City Rascals ……………. 7:05 p.m.
August 15 vs. River City Rascals ……………. 7:05 p.m.
August 16 at Evansville Otters ……………….. 6:35 p.m.
August 17 at Evansville Otters ……………….. 6:35 p.m.
August 18 at Evansville Otters ……………….. 6:35 p.m.
August 20 at Washington Wild Things ……. 6:05 p.m.
August 21 at Washington Wild Things ……. 6:05 p.m.
August 22 at Washington Wild Things ……. 6:05 p.m.
August 23 vs. Windy City ThunderBolts …. 7:05 p.m.
August 24 vs. Windy City ThunderBolts …. 7:05 p.m.
August 25 vs. Windy City ThunderBolts …. 6:05 p.m.
August 27 vs. Southern Illinois Miners …… 6:35 p.m.
August 28 vs. Southern Illinois Miners …… 6:35 p.m.
August 29 vs. Southern Illinois Miners …… 6:35 p.m.
August 30 vs. Rockford Aviators …………… 7:05 p.m.
August 31 vs. Rockford Aviators …………… 7:05 p.m.
September 1 vs. Rockford Aviators ……….. 7:05 p.m.
September 3 at Southern Illinois Miners …. 7:05 p.m.
September 4 at Southern Illinois Miners …. 7:05 p.m.
September 5 at Southern Illinois Miners …. 7:05 p.m.