MARION - The Southern Illinois Miners fought back from two early one-run deficits on Sunday night against the Gateway Grizzlies, rallying for a 5-2 win to salvage the finale of the first half of the season and the weekend series at Rent One Park and improving to 27-23 entering the All-Star break.
Gateway scored a run in the first inning for the third time in this series on an RBI single by Luis Roman, but Tyson Cronin minimized the damage, and the Miners were able to tie the score on Gianfranco Wawoe's sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning. In the fourth, Gateway again grabbed a one-run lead on an RBI single by Zak Taylor at 2-1, but one inning later, Cletis Avery came up big with an RBI double to tie the score again at 2-2 after five innings. The Miners would strand two in scoring position that frame, but would take the lead for good in the sixth inning against Grizzlies starter Dominic Topoozian (4-3) after Jake Godfrey (1-0) pitched the club out of a jam in the top of the inning.
Wawoe led off in the bottom of the sixth with a double, and Kyle Davis followed by putting the Miners ahead 3-2 with an RBI triple to right-center field. After Grant Black came in from the bullpen two batters later with one out, Andy Cosgrove added an RBI single to push the lead out to 4-2. From there, the Miners got solid relief pitching to hold the lead, with Benjamin Dum working a scoreless seventh inning, and Chase Cunningham tossing a scoreless eighth in his first-ever professional relief appearance.
After the Miners scored an insurance run on a fielder's choice by Anthony Jimenez in the eighth to make the score 5-2, Jordan Brink nailed down his fourth save of the year with a scoreless ninth as the Miners won their final contest heading into the all-star break for the first time since 2015. Eight of the nine Miners players in the lineup had at least one hit in a balanced, 11-hit offensive attack, with two-hit days from Davis, Cosgrove and Avery. Davis also scored twice as the Miners avoided the sweep.
Miners Manager Mike Pinto said winning the series finale and going into the break on a winning note could carry over to the second half.
"It was really important that we finish up well," he said. "We've been beaten up. This has been a very tough first half physically. We've had several guys playing every day. Of the 48 road games this season, we've already played 30 of them, including almost all of the long trips.
"We've been battling through adversity and are just now starting to get some guys off the disabled list," Pinto said. "Ridings (starting pitcher Steven) is expected back soon and McAuliffe (starting pitcher Ryan) just got back into the lineup last night. We'll also have Santana (infielder/outfielder Alex) back after the break and a couple guys who just got released from affiliated ball we're going to bring in, too."
Pinto said he is confident the Miners will enjoy a strong second half.
"I still think the best part of our season is ahead of us," he said. "Starting pitching is going to be the key for us. If we can get five or six innings out of our starter, we have a really good chance to win. If I have to go to the bullpen in the second inning, it's going to be a long day. You can't expect your bullpen guys to come in every single day and do the job."
After Wawoe, Cosgrove and Cunningham represent the team at the 2019 Can-Am League vs Frontier League All-Star Game in Pomona, New York on Wednesday, July 10, Southern Illinois will return to action at Rent One Park on Friday, July 12, to kick off the second half of their 2019 season against the reigning champion Joliet Slammers. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
Miners Drop Second Straight To Gateway
MARION - The Southern Illinois Miners fell behind in the first and could not dig out of the hole against the Gateway Grizzlies, who recorded a blowout 10-1 victory at Rent One Park to clinch the weekend series in Marion.
Shawon Dunston, Jr. led off the game with a triple against Ryan McAuliffe, who was making his first appearance for the club since May 25, and scored on a groundout for a quick 1-0 lead. McAuliffe (1-1) was able to minimize the damage in both the first and second innings to a single run as Gateway led by two. Southern Illinois was then able to get the tying runs to scoring position in the bottom of the second as Jamey Smart doubled and Jarrod Watkins walked, then moved up one base each on a wild pitch by Ian Kahaloa (1-2). But the Grizzlies starter got out of trouble, and Gateway added on to pull away thereafter.
McAuliffe exited with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the third, and Matt Brown struck a three-run double to left field off Cody Thompson for a 5-0 margin. Thompson would last five and two-thirds innings in the game out of the Miners' bullpen, surrendering two runs of his own in the top of the fifth to make the score 7-0, and then allowing three more tallies in the ninth, saving the rest of the Miners' bullpen.
Southern Illinois' lone run came in the fifth, when Arturo Nieto singled to lead off and went to second base on a groundout. Joe Duncan then cranked an automatic RBI double to left-center field to make the score 7-1 at the time, but the Miners got no closer in suffering their third consecutive loss at home.
Southern Illinois offense stifled as Gateway scores last six runs in Friday defeat
MARION - The Southern Illinois Miners could not hold an early lead, as their offense struggled in the middle frames while an error opened the door for the Gateway Grizzlies to erase a two-run deficit in the fifth inning en route to a 7-3 loss at Rent One Park.
Gateway took the lead on Andrew Daniel's solo homer in the first inning off Marty Anderson and led 1-0 until the second inning, when Kyle Davis drew a walk and Andy Cosgrove was hit by a pitch before Jarrod Watkins reached on a fielder's choice that, along with an error on Gateway's Matt Brown, brought in the tying run. After Cletis Avery walked to load the bases, Joe Duncan singled to left-center field to make it 3-1 Southern Illinois.
But after a walk re-loaded the bases that same inning, Gateway starter Chris Carden (4-1) induced a ground-ball double play to avoid further damage, and would not allow another base-runner for the rest of his seven-inning start, finishing with four walks against only two strikeouts. In the fifth inning, Anderson (3-1) walked two batters with two outs before Brown popped up a ball to the right side of the infield, which Avery dropped for an error, allowing a run to score to make the score 3-2. After a pitching change, Luis Roman tripled to right-center field to put Gateway up for good at 4-3.
The Grizzlies added on three more runs against Jake Godfrey in the seventh inning for the final margin, including a second solo home run by Daniel, as the Miners dropped the series opener in Marion.
Miners lose to Florence in series finale
FLORENCE, KY. - The Southern Illinois Miners got an early advantage, but three big offensive frames by the Florence Freedom sent them to a 15-4 defeat on Thursday at UC Health Stadium.
It was the Miners who struck first in the first inning- Joe Duncan led off with a walk against Florence starter Mike Castellani and moved to second, then third base on singles by Anthony Jimenez and Stephen Lohr. A fielder's choice hit into by Gianfranco Wawoe brought Duncan in and made the score 1-0.
But the lead would not last- a leadoff double in the bottom of the first inning led eventually to an RBI groundout by Caleb Lopes to tie the score at one. Then the Freedom piled on with five runs in the third inning, working a leadoff walk and eventually sending ten batters to the plate against Austin Dubsky to build a 6-1 lead.
That lead held until the sixth inning, when the Freedom batted around again and scored four runs with two outs against Andrew Bernstein for a 10-1 advantage. Southern Illinois would get three of the four runs back in the top of the seventh inning on a two-run double from Cletis Avery and an RBI single by Jimenez to get within 10-4.
But the Freedom would again bat around in the seventh inning against Tyler Luneke, scoring five more runs in the frame for the final 15-4 score. As a team, the Miners had 13 hits offensively, including a 3-for-5 game from Jimenez and two-hit days for Duncan, Kyle Davis and Andy Cosgrove, but could not keep the home team's offense down in dropping three of the four games in the midweek series.
Cunningham sets tone as Miners lead nearly wire-to-wire, thwarting rally in ninth
FLORENCE, KY. - The Southern Illinois Miners got early runs on the board against the Florence Freedom, coupled with an outstanding start from Chase Cunningham, and turned aside a late rally by the home team to win 7-6 at UC Health Stadium in the third game of the four-game holiday week series.
After Florence starter Scott Sebald (2-1) struck out the first two batters of the game, Stephen Lohr doubled to left field, and Kyle Davis followed with a two-run home run deep over the left field wall to put Southern Illinois up 2-0. Cunningham (6-2) then proceeded to dominate, as he retired the first nine batters he faced in the contest while striking out five of them to hold the two-run edge.
The Miners extended their lead against Sebald in the fifth inning. Jarrod Watkins led off with a single and went to third base when the ball got by Ricky Ramirez, Jr. in right field for an error. Joe Duncan then doubled him home for a 3-0 Miners lead, and Bryant Flete followed with a double of his own to make it 4-0. A passed ball moved Flete to third base, and after Lohr made it 5-0 with a sacrifice fly, Davis then doubled and was driven in on a two-out single by Jamey Smart for a 6-0 cushion.
The Freedom loaded the bases and scored two runs on a one-out single by Ramirez to cut the lead to 6-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, but Cunningham minimized damage by retiring the final two batters of the frame, including his ninth strikeout of the night. The right-hander would then fan two more in the seventh inning to conclude his start with a career-high 11 strikeouts and just two runs allowed on four hits.
The Miners would add on insurance in the top of the ninth when Smart yet again drove in a run with a two-out single, making the score 7-2, and that would prove to be the winning run. Florence loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the frame against Heath Renz, and Benjamin Dum came on and struck out Austin Wobrock for the second out. A pair of two-run singles by Connor Crane and Isaac Benard made it 7-6 and put the tying run on first base, but Dum struck out Andre Mercurio swinging to secure the victory as the Miners improved to 26-20 on the season.
Flete finished with three hits in the contest for Southern Illinois offensively, while Davis and Smart both went 2-for-5 with two RBIs.
• Editor John Homan contributed to the story.