The Rockford Aviators came into Thursday’s contest 29-19 (.644) and tied for first in the Frontier League with the Traverse City Beach Bums. Both teams lead their perspective divisions. Tony Rizzotti took the mound for Rockford bringing his league leading 1.11 ERA into the final of a three-game set versus the Gateway Grizzlies, who were 15-31 (.326) coming into this game.
Rizzotti took control quickly as he struck out two in 5 1/3 innings. Donnie Murphy started for the Grizzlies and had decent stuff, but after facing 24 batters and giving up three runs, his night was over. Elijah Trail for the Aviators had a two-run home run in the fourth and another run was added in the same frame, making it a 3-0 contest.
The game stayed that way until the top of the seventh inning when the Grizzlies put together a fantastic comeback putting up eight runs and took a, 8-3 lead. It took a few pitchers (David Russo, Eric Cendejas & Nick Grim) but they got through what was a Grizzlies team not only hitting around in that eighth but also almost every man in the lineup scoring. The Aviators put up a few runs in the seventh as well, but not enough to worry anyone, then down 8-5.
The Grizzlies faced Aviators reliever Colby Holmes in the top of the ninth and put up another run, bringing their game tally to nine runs off of 14 hits. Rockford came to bat in the bottom of the last frame touting five runs off of nine hits. Unfortunately for the Aviators it was too little, too late as they went three up, three down for a final score of 9-5.
The Aviators (29-20) have the Washington Wild Things coming to town tomorrow as The Grizzlies (16-31) will be visiting the River City Rascals.