The Normal CornBelters, presented by Illinois Corn Farmers, committed five errors while dropping the finale of the road trip to the Gateway Grizzlies 4-3 on Sunday night at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Illinois. The loss reduces the CornBelters tragic number to one, as any Southern Illinois Miners win or CornBelters loss will officially eliminate the Belters from post-season play.
The CornBelters struck first in the third inning when Daniel Cox hit a one-out single through the right side and moved to second on a passed ball. Alvaro Ramirez doubled Cox home with two outs on a soft liner just over the infield behind third base.
Defensive misplays gave the Grizzlies the tying run in the bottom of the third. The CornBelters had allowed two runners to reach via error in the first and escaped, but were not as fortunate in the third. A bunt by Derek Jennings was thrown away by Normal pitcher Tyler Lavigne, and the recovery was thrown wide by Asif Shah to allow Jennings to land on third base, and he scored on a ground out one batter later.
The Belters got the run back in the top of the fourth to take a 2-1 lead. A Frank Martinez single and a walk to Steve Alexander led off the inning, and they advanced to second and third on a fly out to deep center by Asif Shah. Martinez scored on a sacrifice fly to left from Mark Samuelson.
The Grizzlies took the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Lavigne hit Brian Harris with a pitch with one out and walked Derek Jennings with two outs, and both came around to score. Joe Agreste doubled Harris home, and Jennings scored on a base hit by Charlie Lisk to put the Grizzlies ahead 3-2.
Another misplay sent the Grizzlies ahead 4-2 in the sixth. Carlton Salters walked with one out and scored from first base when the attempt to retire him was thrown wide by Cox.
The CornBelters got a run back with a leadoff home run over the short right field wall by Mike Mobbs, his second in as many nights and his sixth of the season, to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Mobbs started a ninth-inning rally with one out by reaching on a three-base error on a deep fly to right center. Daniel Cox was intentionally walked, but A.J. Miller grounded into a double play to end the game.
Brad Stone (2-7) took the win, giving up six hits in his seven innings while walking one and striking out nine. Chris Enourato pitched the ninth for his ninth save. Tyler Lavigne (6-8) took the loss, giving up just four hits and two earned runs while walking three and striking out eight in six innings.
The CornBelters take Monday off before beginning a six-game homestand on Tuesday. The defending champion River City Rascals visit Normal Tuesday through Thursday, and the Southern Illinois Miners visit the Corn Crib on Friday through Sunday.