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Grizzlies hold off ThunderBolts, regain first place in Frontier League West

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After falling out of first place for a couple of days, the Gateway Grizzlies were able to reclaim their perch on top of the Frontier League West Division on Saturday, by pulling out a 5-4 victory over the host Windy City ThunderBolts at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood, Ill.

Gateway starter JaVaun West (4-0) earned his Frontier League-leading fourth win of the season on Saturday, by going seven innings and holding Windy City to those four runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out seven.

West is also the league leader in strikeouts, with 31 K's on the year, and has been the winning pitcher in all four of his starts this season.

On Saturday, the Grizzlies gave West a 3-0 lead before he ever even took the field, as they scored three times in the top of the first to jump on top of ThunderBolt rookie starter Jason Kafka.

Gateway's first five hitters all singled off Kafka to start the game, with runs coming in on a smash up the middle by third baseman Niko Vasquez, which drove in one run, and a line-shot to right field by designated hitter Michael Wing, which drove home two more.

Windy City got one run back in the bottom of the first, when Evan Button walked with the bases loaded to make the score 3-1. West was able to get out of that jam though, thanks to a pop out and back-to-back strikeouts.

Bases loaded walks were a theme of the evening between the Grizzlies and ThunderBolts.

Not only was that how Windy City got its first run, it was also how Gateway produced its fourth tally of the night, as right fielder Xavier Macklin walked with the bases loaded in the third inning to make the score 4-1 Grizzlies.

With that lead, West cruised through the middle innings, retiring 15 of the 17 batters he faced with ease between the second and sixth innings.

Windy City did touch the Atlanta, Mo. native and third-year pro out of the University of Indianapolis, for three doubles and a single in the seventh, but West's Gateway teammates bailed him out in the eighth, with a not-so-surprising bases loaded walk to catcher Landon Hernandez, which proved to be the game-winning run.

Relievers Chris DeBoo and Richard Barrett pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively, to close out the win for the Grizzlies.

Barrett's effort in the ninth earned him his team-leading sixth save of the season.

Gateway is now 14-7 on the season and sitting a half game ahead of the crosstown rival River City Rascals in the Frontier League West.

The Grizzlies and ThunderBolts will play the rubber game of their three-game set at Standard Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon, with veteran righthander Dejai Oliver (2-2, 5.87 ERA) getting the start for Gateway, and Windy City countering with former San Diego Padres farmhand Daniel Cropper (1-3, 6.32 ERA).

First pitch on Sunday is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.