The Gateway Grizzlies came back from a one-run deficit in the ninth inning to send Tuesday night’s contest against the Windy City ThunderBolts to extra innings, and Andrew Penner walked off the visitors in the bottom of the tenth with a single to right field to give his squad an 11-10 victory at Grizzlies Ballpark. The triumph put the Grizzlies on the verge of clinching a playoff spot, as it lowered their magic number down to one while simultaneously giving them a three-game lead in the West Division standings.
Things did not begin well for Gateway, as Bren Spillane and Micah Yonamine hit back-to-back home runs in the top of the first inning to put Windy City up 3-0 against Carson LaRue. The score would remain 3-0 until the bottom of the fourth, when D.J. Stewart came up with two runners aboard and tied the game with a three-run home run, his 10th of the season.
The ThunderBolts would then score three more times in the top of the fifth to regain their advantage, with Yonamine hitting an RBI double to score Spillane, and Peyton Isaacson crushing a two-run home run to right field to make it 6-3. But the Grizzlies also responded against former Gateway right-hander Taylor Sugg in the bottom of the fifth, with Cole Brannen’s sacrifice fly and an error by Sugg drawing them within 6-5 before Stewart came up again and put the Grizzlies ahead 7-6 on a two-run double.
In the seventh, Gateway expanded the lead to 9-6 on a wild pitch by Cole Bellair and a two-out RBI double by Eric Rivera. But in the eighth, also with two outs, Jake Boone hit a game-tying, three-run shot to right field off Brian Eichhorn, knotting the score at 9-9. In the top of the ninth, Windy City struck again, with Junior Martina doubling against Josh Lucas, advancing to third base on a groundout, and scoring on a passed ball to give the ThunderBolts a stunning 10-9 lead.
But yet again, the Grizzlies struck back. Jairus Richards took Derrick Edington deep to right field for a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half against his former team, sending the contest to extra innings. In the top of the tenth, with the International Tiebreaker in effect, Windy City moved the automatic runner to third base on a sacrifice bunt, and attempted to score the go-ahead run on a fly ball by Boone to center field. But Rivera threw out Dan Robinson at home plate to end the inning, and keep the score tied at 10-10.
In the bottom half, Mark Vierling moved Brannen to third base on another sacrifice bunt, bringing up Penner, who served the game-winning single to right field to give the Grizzlies their third walk-off victory of the season.
With the win, Gateway improves their record to 20 games over the .500 mark for the first time this season, and with a magic number of one, either a win over the ThunderBolts on Wednesday night in the middle game of the series or a Joliet loss at Evansville will clinch the Grizzlies’ first playoff berth since 2012.
First pitch Wednesday night at Grizzlies Ballpark is set for 6:45 p.m. CT, with Lukas Veinbergs taking the mound for Gateway against Windy City’s Logan Schmitt.
Mick Lite served for 12 years in the military and is now an entrepreneur and photographer. Has worked as the official scorer and social media manager for the River City Rascals, Statistician for the Missouri Monsters and St. Louis Attack arena football teams, and as the Team Photographer and social media consultant for the St. Charles Chill, SLU Hockey, St. Louis Slam, and Gateway Grizzlies.