SAUGET, Ill. — In a game that took four hours and 51 minutes, the Gateway Grizzlies outlasted the Southern Illinois Miners for a 12-11, walk-off win Sunday night in 12 innings at GCS Credit Union Ballpark.
Blake Brown hit his 17th and 18th home runs of 2018. More importantly, the two solo shots were his 65th and 66th big flies in his four-year Grizzlies career, moving him into sole possession of third place on the franchise’s all-time list.
Both teams were down to their final strikes while trailing by multiple runs at different points in Saturday’s game, which featured 23 total runs — nine of which were scored in extra innings.
Gateway (37-58) was one strike away from a regulation win when Miners outfielder Nolan Earley hit a two-strike, two-out, three-run home run in the ninth inning to tie the game.
After a scoreless 10th inning, both teams scored three runs in the 11th. Grizzlies infielder Brent Sakurai shot a two-strike, two-out, two-run single up the middle to send the game to 12 innings.
Trae Santos played the Gateway hero in the 12th: He doubled home Brown to tie the game, then moved to third on a sacrifice and barrelled home — at 11:56 p.m. CDT — to score on a wild pitch and secure the Grizzlies’ walk-off win.
Southern Illinois (48-46) was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss, although the Miners’ elimination had been assured hours earlier when the Evansville Otters beat the Normal CornBelters.
Mitch Piatnik, Shane Mardirosian and Grizzlies skipper Phil Warren were ejected Saturday during a contenious night of baseball. Piatnik departed in the ninth inning; Mardirosian and Warren left in the 10th.
Southern Illinois used every position player on its roster; Gateway used eight pitchers and all but one position player.
Joe Hauser (1-2) earned his first Grizzlies win in relief.
Gateway and Southern Illinois will finish the 2018 season Sunday at 6:05 p.m.