MARION -- The Southern Illinois Miners lost the first game of their doubleheader against the Florence Freedom on Saturday in heartbreaking fashion by a score of 2-1 in eight innings, but thanks to a late comeback, they beat the Freedom 3-2 in seven innings in the second contest to secure a split as well as a two-games-to-one series win at Rent One Park.
In the first game, Kyle Davis cranked his team-leading tenth homer of the season off Jonathon Tripp over the center field wall to make it 1-0 Southern Illinois. Cole Cook made the lead stand up until the fourth inning, when Jackson Pritchard's RBI single tied the game. Cook was able to minimize the damage, as both he and Tripp threw five innings and allowed just a single run.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Miners had a great chance to win, as after Andy Cosgrove was hit by a pitch leading off, Jarrod Watkins walked and Joe Duncan sacrificed them both into scoring position. With Cosgrove representing the winning run at third base with just one out, however, the Miners were unable to score, and in the first extra inning, Caleb Lopes hit a go-ahead solo shot to deal Southern Illinois the defeat.
In the second contest, the Freedom got the lead in the second inning on an RBI double by Brandon Pugh, but that was all Andrew Bernstein allowed in five solid innings of work in his first professional start. Freedom starter Zak Spivy (0-4) cruised in the early part of the game, retiring nine batters in a row at one point, but with the score still 1-0 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Miners pounced.
Watkins led off with an infield hit, and Gianfranco Wawoe reached on an error by Austin Wobrock. Spivy departed after a popout in favor of Hayden Wheeler, but that move proved to be costly as Jamey Smart came up against the left-hander and promptly tied the game with an RBI single, extending his hitting streak to 11 in a row in the process. On the next pitch, Arturo Nieto brought in the lead run with an RBI double to the warning track in right field, making it 2-1 Southern Illinois. A fielder's choice hit into by Cletis Avery along with an error on a dropped ball at the plate by Ryan Rinsky allowed Smart to then score what eventually became the winning run and make it 3-1.
Nick Durazo (3-2), making his return to Southern Illinois, surrendered a solo home run to Luis Pintor leading off the seventh inning, but Florence would get no closer as Benjamin Dum retired the next three batters for the save, with Southern Illinois notching the series win over the first-place Freedom.
The Miners are off for the next two days, and will return to action on Tuesday, July 30, at 6:35 p.m. in the opener of a three-game home set against the Joliet Slammers at Rent One Park.
Friday Night's game: Miners use midgame homers to beat Florence
MARION -- The Southern Illinois Miners won their second straight game on Friday night at Rent One Park, coming back from a fifth-inning deficit to beat the Florence Freedom 4-3 in the series opener.
In front of over 5,000 fans on the night where former pitching great Ryan Bird was inducted into the Frontier League Hall of Fame, the Miners got on the board with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning against Freedom starter Mike Castellani (6-2). Kyle Davis hit a one-out double to left and was singled to third base by Andy Cosgrove before being driven in by Taylor Sparks on a sacrifice fly, with his first Miners RBI making it 1-0. Joe Duncan then continued the inning with a single, and Colton Pogue followed with a sharp grounder that hit off the third base bag and over the head of Taylor Bryant for a double, bringing in Cosgrove and making it 2-0.
Southern Illinois starter Steven Ridings allowed just one baserunner with five strikeouts in the first three innings, but surrendered a run in the fourth on an RBI single by Ricky Ramirez, Jr., cutting the lead to 2-1. Then in the fifth inning, Austin Wobrock's two-run double against Cody Thompson gave the visitors their first lead and made the score 3-2 Florence. That lead would be short-lived, however, as Cletis Avery hit a solo home run on the first pitch of the next inning into the Miners' bullpen to knot the score at 3-3. Then, in the sixth, Sparks came up and also crushed a first-pitch homer to left field, his first as a Miner, to put the home team up 4-3.
That would end up being the final score, as Thompson's (2-2) scoreless sixth inning was followed with three more blank frames from the Miners bullpen of Will Headean, Benjamin Dum, and Jake Godfrey, with Godfrey picking up his first pro save in the ninth. The Miners' offense also amassed 12 hits in the contest, with Sparks, Davis, Duncan and Jamey Smart all notching two and only one of the starting nine players going hitless.