BY DENNIS CHASE
TRAVERSE CITY —
The Gateway Grizzlies saw the best of Brooks Belter on Tuesday.
The Traverse City right-hander pitched seven shutout innings as the Beach Bums locked up the Frontier League's No. 1 seed in the playoffs with a 4-1 Frontier League win at Wuerfel Park.
Belter, relying on his fastball, scattered five hits and struck out a career-high eight batters to reach double-digit wins. He's now 10-2 — 7-1 at home.
"Innings one through seven, that's probably the best he's pitched all year," Traverse City manager Gregg Langbehn said. "He did a great job of pounding the zone. The ball was coming out of his hand good. He wasn't cutting anything off. He's had a tendency of doing that. Tonight he limited his walks. When he doesn't walk people he's tough to hit."
Belter issued just two free passes in a game featuring the two teams with the best records in the league.
"My last two outings were decent so I was just trying to build off that," Belter said.
Gateway made it interesting in the ninth, scoring once and leaving the bases loaded. Matt Miller, the third reliever of the inning, struck out Rogelio Norris to end the game.
"Miller did what he's done all year," first baseman Chase Burch said. "He came in and shut it down."
Burch provided the Beach Bums with a 1-0 lead in the fourth, depositing a Paul Tremlin pitch over the left field fence. It was his 16th home run of the season and his fifth in just over a week. He now has 30 RBIs in 16 career games against Gateway.
"It was a 2-0 fastball, a little up, a little in," he said. "It was what I was looking for. I got the barrel there and got it out of here."
"Chase scored that ball up well," Langbehn added. "It seemed like the wind died down at that point, too, nothing cutting it down. He got in a good hitter's count and didn't miss it."
Traverse City added three runs in the fifth, capitalizing on Tremlin's wildness. Tremlin walked three batters and surrendered two hits in the frame. Brian Heere worked him for an RBI bases-loaded walk and then Jose Vargas followed with a liner up the middle to drive in a pair. Vargas now has 98 RBIs on the season as he moves closer to the 100 mark.
"I'm trying not to think about that," he said. "All I'm thinking about is for us to keep going strong, finish the season on a hot streak and take that into the playoffs."
His hit, though, did not go unnoticed by Langbehn.
"He continues to produce with runners on base," he said.
Belter protected that lead before turning it over to the bullpen.
"He threw 105, 106 pitches," Langbehn said. "That's good enough. He's scheduled to go Sunday so there's no reason to push him."
The Beach Bums own the best record in the league at 61-30 with five regular-season games remaining. They will now have the home-field edge throughout the playoffs, which open next week.
But Langbehn is not looking ahead with five home dates left to finish the regular season.
"We're not going to let up," he said. "We're playing to win. We don't want to lose our edge."
The series continues tonight with Kurt Wunderlich (2-0, 4.97) starting for Traverse City and Alex Kaminsky (10-4, 3.43) for Gateway.