The team with the best record in the Frontier League got its holiday fireworks celebration started off a little early this year.
The Gateway Grizzlies had previously announced that they would be hosting fireworks shows on Wednesday and Thursday at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, following Games 2 and 3 against the visiting Washington Wild Things to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.
But on Tuesday night, the Grizzlies turned the fireworks loose a day early and in a different way, busting out for a season-high 16 runs and slapping around a season-best 18 hits, including four home runs, in a 16-5 win over the Wild Things.
Third baseman Chris McClendon and center fielder Antone DeJesus led the way with four hits apiece for Gateway, which saw all but one member of its starting lineup get at least one hit and score at least one run.
Seven of the nine also had at least one RBI, led by McClendon, who drove in four, beginning with a one-out double in the bottom of the first that got the Grizzlie onslaught started.
Jet Butler and Jon Myers followed after McClendon with homers — No. 6 for Butler and a Frontier League-leading No. 11 for Myers — to turn the first inning into a huge, four-run frame for Gateway.
The Grizzlies followed that up with four more runs in the bottom of the second to grab an 8-0 lead through two innings.
Washington battled back to within 8-5, with a pair of solo home runs from sluggers Mark Samuelson and C.J. Beatty in the third inning, and then a three-run homer by Beatty in the fifth.
But Gateway pushed its offense into overdrive after that, scoring eight unaswered runs to end the night, including one run each in the fifth and sixth innings, the third four-spot of the night in the seventh, and finally two final runs in the eighth.
The 11-run margin of victory was the second largest of the season for the Grizzlies, who got their biggest win of the season on June 11 with a 15-1 thrashing of the Frontier Greys.
Veteran righthander Tim Brown (6-2) moved into a tie for the Gateway team lead in wins, by lasting seven innings, and holding the Wild Things to the five runs on seven hits. He also struck out four and walked only three.
Washington ace Shawn Sanford (5-3) suffered the loss, after giving up nine hits and all eight early Grizzlie runs in only 1 1/3 innings work.
Game 2 of the three-game Gateway-Washington series is slated for Wednesday night at GCS, with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05 p.m.
Second-year man Ja’Vaun West (6-1) will get the start for Gateway (26-13), which is now four games ahead of the Schaumburg Boomers in the Frontier League West Division standings.
Fellow righthander Gary Lee (3-3) is scheduled to start for Washington (21-19), which fell to fifth place in the East.