SAUGET -- The Southern Illinois Miners used home runs by Craig Massey and Romeo Cortina as well as a fantastic, seven-inning effort on the mound from Robby Rowland to top the Gateway Grizzlies 5-1 at GCS Ballpark in Sauget for their third consecutive win overall in the opener of a three-game road series.
It was the Grizzlies who struck first, as Terry McClure walked and stole second base with one out. Jack Hranec followed with a single, and McClure scored on an RBI double by Evan Rogers for a 1-0 Gateway advantage. But that would be all that Rowland (1-2) allowed, as the right-hander scattered five hits over seven strong innings, walking two and setting a new season-high with seven strikeouts to earn his first win on the mound as a Miner.
Southern Illinois' bats were held down by Ja'Vaun West (2-8), as they got seven hits against him in the first five innings, but were unable to score any runs. That changed in the sixth, when former Grizzlie Craig Massoni beat former Miner Joel McKeithan's throw to first base for an infield single. Massey then came up and hit a two-run homer over the right-center field wall, a go-ahead shot that vaulted the Miners in front 2-1.
Gateway would threaten that lead in the eighth inning, loading the bases with two outs on an infield hit and two walks, but John Werner came in and struck out Hranec to preserve the one-run advantage, and the Miners then tacked on three more runs in the ninth when with two men on and one out, Cortina blasted a three-run home run over the left field wall to make it 5-1.
Werner then finished off the game to earn his 20th save of the season, tying the single-season and career Miners records for saves (both set in 2014 by Derrick Miramontes). Cortina led the Miners' offense with a 3-for-5 game and three RBIs on his third homer of the year, while Massey went 1-for-3 with his second long ball of the season and a pair of RBIs.
Southern Illinois will look to push their win streak out to four games when they take on the Grizzlies at 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday night in the second game of the series.