Sauget, Ill. – The Gateway Grizzlies fell 3-2 on Saturday evening to the Normal CornBelters despite receiving an eleven strikeout performance by right-hander Dakota Smith. Normal used a pair of homers in the ninth inning to erase a deficit and win the middle portion of a three-game set at GCS Ballpark.
With the Grizzlies leading 2-1 in the ninth, RHP JaVaun West (0-2) came on for the save chance and allowed back-to-back solo homers. Aaron Dudley popped his fourth blast of the season to tie the game at 2-2. Moments later, Dillon Haupt hit an opposite-field home run to give the CornBelters a 3-2 edge.
Before the ninth inning drama, Smith dazzled for Gateway in his second start of the season by allowing just one run and five hits through seven innings on the mound.
The Grizzlies (10-17) struck first against RHP Chris Carmain (1-3) in the second inning with Seth Heck’s RBI single to score Blake Brown. Heck did it again in the fourth with another two-out hit to plate Brandon Thomas.
In the sixth, the CornBelters (10-16) rallied against Smith. With two runners on-base and two outs, Dillon Haupt hit a single that scored Santiago Chirino but Aaron Dudley was thrown out at home plate by Cody Livesay to protect the Grizzlies’ one-run lead.
Smith exited the game after seven frames and gave the ball to RHP Kevin Jefferis, who pitched a scoreless eighth in his Gateway debut. Meanwhile, the CornBelters received a great performance from Carmain, who ultimately went eight innings and allowed just those two runs.
After the homers in the top half of the ninth, RHP Race Parmenter closed out the ballgame for his fourth save while the Grizzlies stranded the tying and winning runs on the bases.
Gateway and Normal continue their series on Sunday night at GCS Ballpark. The Grizzlies send RHP Will Landsheft (1-2, 3.60 ERA) to the mound. The game can be heard on the Grizzlies Radio Network, which airs Sunday atwww.GatewayGrizzlies.com/Radio