O’FALLON, MO. — For 10 1/2 innings, the night belonged to the pitchers in Thursday’s Frontier League baseball battle between the archrival River City Rascals and Gateway Grizzlies.
Starting pitchers Preston Vancil of the Rascals and Tim Brown of the Grizzlies were simply dynamite, both allowing just two runs in seven innings of work in a critical early-season game for both clubs.
Several relief pitchers also came in and did excellent work in the eighth, ninth, and 10th innings, to keep the score tied 2-2 going into the 11th.
But in the bottom half of that frame, Frontier League all-time home run champ and current Rascal, Charlie Lisk, who did most of that damage in five seasons as a Grizzlie, launched an 0-1 fastball off the clubhouse roof in deep right-centerfield at T.R. Hughes Ballpark, to lift River City to a 3-2 win over their rivals from Gateway.
The blast was Lisk’s seventh homer of the season, and 120th of his Frontier League career, and it put a scintillating cap on what was a remarkable evening of baseball for the nearly 2,000 fans that were on hand to see it on Thursday.
River City has now won three straight games, has moved back into second place in the Frontier League West Division standings at 19-13, and will go for the sweep over the Grizzlies on Friday, in another 7:05 p.m. matchup at T.R. Hughes.
The Rascals took the lead early, with a pair of runs in the fourth inning, when Jason Patton and Wednesday night walk-off hero Kyle Jones delivered back-to-back RBI singles to make the score 2-0.
Gateway (16-16) finally got to Vancil, who allowed just four hits and struck out 10 in his seven-inning effort, in the sixth inning, when Jerod Yakubik drove in a run on a sacrifice fly and Landon Hernandez added an RBI on a single to left.
After that, the bullpens took over, with River City’s Brandon Cunniff, Justin Gill, and Dustin Umberger throwing a combined scoreless four innings for the Rascals, and Phillip Reamy and Gil Rehwinkel working for Gateway.
Rehwinkel (0-1) wound up taking the loss, after giving up the Lisk walk-off, while Umberger, River City’s closer, got his second straight win, as the pitcher of record, when Lisk blasted off to end the game.
The final dramatics almost didn’t happen though, as it appeared Gateway would take the lead in the eighth, when Hernandez singled to center, and Grizzlie leadoff man Jonathan Johnson rounded third and headed home with the apparent go-ahead run.
But Rascal center fielder Eric Williams fielded the basehit and threw a dart to the plate that arrived just as Johnson did to try to score.
Catcher Ben Hewett, in just his second game as a Rascal, somehow managed to catch Williams’ throw, and awkwardly tag Johnson, to keep the game tied at 2.
Three innings later, Lisk sent everybody home with bomb off the Rascals’ team clubhouse, and reminded everyone why he is the Frontier League’s all-time home run champ.