The Gateway Grizzlies suffered a heart-breaking setback to Southern Illinois Saturday night at GCS Ballpark.
The Grizzlies were one out away from snapping the first-place Miners’ 10-game winning streak and salvaging a win in the three-game series, but Southern Illinois scored three runs with two-outs in the ninth to claim a 7-6 victory.
“That’s pretty tough. There’s no getting around that,” said Gateway manager Phil Warren “It was just like game one and we just couldn’t get it down.”
The Grizzlies lost game one of the series, 6-5.
Gateway led, 5-4, entering the ninth and closer Jake Shafer seemed to be in control recording consecutive strikeouts after a leadoff walk, but back-to-back singles loaded the bases.
Shafer induced a ground ball up the middle, but second basemen Brandon Peters couldn’t make the play cleanly and the ball rolled towards the outfield, allowing Mike Stalter and Stephen Head to score. Brendan Akashan added a run-scoring single to complete the rally.
“We weren’t clutched defensively tonight,” Warren said. “We just talked about it today and we didn’t make the plays when we had to.”
The Grizzlies attempted a comeback of their own in the bottom of the inning as slumping Charlie Lisk belted his first homer since June 10th to lead off the inning. Lisk entered the game with a .175 batting average in his last 10 games and finished the six-game home stand 5 for 25.
“Having Chuck hitting the ball is definitely going to help us so hopefully he’s starting to come out of it,” Warren said. “Every hitter goes through it and he will come out of it.”
Breck Draper was robbed of an extra base hit as Jesse White made a jumping catch at the wall for the second out.
Adam Eggemeyer reached on an error, but Brent DeFoor slammed the door shut with a strikeout as the Grizzlies stranded their 11th man on base.
“We had six of our nine guys come up with two outs or less and a runner in scoring position and nobody stepped up,” Warren said. “You’ve got to have guys produce.”
Southern Illinois’ 11-game winning streak is a franchise record.
The Grizzlies took a two-run advantage with a pair of runs in the fifth. Jason Patton had his third RBI in the game with a leadoff homer, and Draper doubled to left center to chase Southern Illinois’ starter Dustin Brado from the game.
Draper advanced to third on an errant pickoff throw from the Miners catcher, and Bryan Marquez notched his first RBI with a two-out single to center, making the score 5-3.
Gateway threatened to blow the game open in the sixth, loading the bases with just one out. Draper laced a liner but right at the second baseman Javier Brown, who stepped on second to force Parker to complete the double play.
“We had bases loaded and don’t get a run in, a closer walking leadoff guys and that (expletive) just isn’t going to win games,” Warren said. “It was another collective effort to lose tonight.”
The Miners pulled within one in the seventh with back-to-back doubles by Jerome Milons and Nate Hall.
Nick Walters replaced starter John Flanagan after Hall’s double. Flanagan finished the night giving up four runs, one walk and fanned five in 6 1/3 innings worked.
Gateway erased a 1-0 deficit with a three-run first inning. The Grizzlies first three batters reached base starting with Bobby Burk’s leadoff double, followed by Peters run-scoring single.
Logan Parker drew a walk and Patton brought in Parker and Peters with a double to right center. Parker finished with four hits, all singles to lead Gateway’s 15-hit attack. Bobby Burk, Parker, Lisk, Patton and Marquez all added two hits each.
Hall’s solo homer in the first was the game’s first run, and Southern Illinois scored a run in fourth and fifth to even the game at 3-3. Brad Miller drove in a run with a single, and Stephen Head’s solo homer to right in the fifth tied the game.
The Grizzlies begin a brief three-game road trip Sunday against Evansville, who the Grizzlies beat two out of three last week.
Southern Illinois 100 110 103 — 7 14 3
Gateway 300 020 001 — 6 15 2
Dustin Brado, Shawn Joy (5), Mike Damchuck (7), Brent DeFoor (9) and Brendan Akashian. John Flanagan, Nick Walters (7), Jake Shafer (8) and Landon Hernandez. WP-Damchuck (3-0). LP-Shafer (1-1). S-DeFoor (5). HR: SI-Nate Hall, 1st, none on; Stephen Head, 5th, none on. Gate-Jason Patton, 5th, none on; Charlie Lisk, 9th, none on. Att.-5,744.