The Gateway Grizzlies pulled off another dramatic ninth inning victory on Friday, when shortstop Michael Wing cracked an RBI sacrifice fly that scored teammate Alex Guthrie with the game-winning run in a 3-2 win over the Rockford Aviators, at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill.
Wing didn't get all of it, when he poked an 0-1 fastball from Rockford reliever Andrew Snowdon into medium right field, but he got enough to score Guthrie, who lead off the inning with a single, then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, and took third on a single by leadoff Jonathan Johnson.
J.J.'s single into center loaded the bases and brought Wing to the plate, where the Pasadena, Calif. native has shined with a .337 batting average (28-83) in 21 games for Gateway.
Third baseman Chris McClendon provided the Grizzlies' other two runs, when he blasted his seventh home run of the season in the bottom of the first to give Gateway a 2-0 lead.
It was early, but Grizzlie starter Tucker Jensen almost made that lead stand up, as he lasted 6 1/3 innings and only gave up three hits and one run, with his only real mistake coming on a 2-0 fastball that got whacked out of the ballpark by Rockford's Jeff Kremer to make the score 2-1.
Rockford tied the game off Gateway reliever Richard Barrett on an RBI double by Edgar Corcino in the seventh.
In the top of the ninth, the Aviators had a golden chance to take the lead, when they loaded the bases with two outs against setup man Zac Treece.
But closer Justin Erasmus came in and struck out Rockford's Kenny Bryant to get out of the jam.
Minutes later, was when Guthrie blooped a single into left-center to start the bottom of the ninth, which ended with a fun, but modest celebration on the field for the Grizzlie players after Wing drove in that final run.
Gateway is now 50-41 on the season, still tied though, with the Florence Freedom (who also won on Friday) for the fourth and final Frontier League playoff spot.
The Southern Illinois Miners, the other club that came into Friday night's action tied with the Grizzlies and Freedom for that final postseason slot, lost to the River City Rascals 6-4 on Friday, and fell one game behind the two wild card leaders.
River City is also still in the hunt; they are only 1 1/2 games back.
Game 2 of the three-game set between Gateway and Rockford will be played Saturday night at GCS, with Matt Sergey getting the starting nod for the Grizzlies and Dan Meyer doing the same for the Aviators.
First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m.
GATEWAY GRIZZLIES REMAINING SCHEDULE
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.