BEND, Ore. – The Gresham GreyWolves saw a window of opportunity left cracked open on Sunday, and they weren’t about to let it shut without making something happen.
After seeing its 7-1 lead turn into a 7-7 tie in seemingly the blink of an eye, Gresham had a chance to grab the lead back in the top of the ninth with Drew Curtis (Southern Illinois) standing on third with just one out. And even though the ball that came off the bat of pinch hitter Ben Klenke wasn’t very deep in left field, head coach Justin Barchus knew that this was the time to get the lead back once and for all.
“That was a tweener so I had to rely on him,” said Curtis when asked about the instructions he received from the third-base coaches’ box. “He told me, ‘Score, score, score,’ so I just got ready to score and ran as fast as I could.”
Score he did, as the six-foot-six Curtis came down the third base line with more than enough speed to beat the throw from the Bend Elks left fielder. The run gave the GreyWolves (13-7, 24-23 overall) an 8-7 win over Bend (8-15, 19-31), clinching a series victory against their South Division foes.
The game didn’t exactly carry the tone of a slugfest early on as both offenses struggled their way through the first five innings.
It was actually Curtis who started the scoring in earnest, breaking a 1-1 tie with a three-run homer over the wall in left field at Vince Genna Stadium. The dinger was his first of West Coast League play, marking the first of five runs that his team would score in an explosive sixth frame.
“I was just trying to find a good pitch like I have been the last couple of weeks,” Curtis said. “I was just waiting for a breakout day and ended up coming up clutch a few times. That was definitely nice to see.”
Gresham would take a 6-1 advantage into the bottom of the sixth inning, and a 7-1 advantage into the bottom of the seventh, but the lead ended up not being enough against a gritty Elks lineup. The home team struck for four runs in the seventh and another two in the eighth, tying the game and spoiling a quality start from Grand Canyon product Gabe Benavides (two earned runs on four hits in 6.1 innings) in the process.
“That was big for Gabe,” Barchus said after the game. “He did a great job early on when we were giving him nothing, and then he did a great job when we were able to score for him later. But that’s when we’re most successful, having a starter that can go out there for six or seven innings.”
While the bullpen may not have been able to hold the lead, the comeback did pave the way for more heroics from Curtis. He led the ninth inning off by lacing a double down the left field line, and then of course came around to score the game’s winning run on the shallow sacrifice fly.
Another save for Michael Clark (Cal Poly) in the last of the ninth sealed the deal on the 8-7 victory, which now has the GreyWolves just a half game out of first place in the South Division’s second half standings. They have also clinched a series win against Bend and are now able to go for a sweep in Monday night’s series finale.
“We are just going to keep playing and keep pushing,” says Curtis. “We’re trying to finish this thing strong and hopefully get a good outcome out of it.”
The GreyWolves are on Twitter (@GreshamGWolves) and Instagram (greshamgwolves). Fans can also find us on Facebook here. To purchase tickets, apparel or hats for the inaugural season of GreyWolves play, visit www.greshamgreywolves.com or call (503) 390-2225.