The Southern Illinois Miners scored four runs to break a 1-1 tie in the top of the fourth inning, and added insurance to the lead in the later innings as they beat the Lake Erie Crushers 8-5 in their first game of the 2021 season at Mercy Health Stadium in Avon, Ohio.
After over 630 days without an official game, things started fast for Southern Illinois in the top of the first inning, as Craig Massey led off the season with a single and advanced to second on an error before moving to third on an Anthony Brocato single. Nolan Earley then brought Massey home with a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 Miners lead.
After Lake Erie brought in the tying run in the bottom of the second inning thanks to a fielder's choice and an error, the Miners would bat around their order in the top of the fourth, scoring four times in the inning to knock Lake Erie starter and former major-league left-hander Ryan Feierabend (0-1) out of the game.
Southern Illinois loaded the bases with no one out in the frame for Jarrod Watkins, whose RBI groundout put them ahead 2-1. Marshall Rich followed with an RBI single before Brandon Pugh also got a run home with a ground ball to make it 4-1. Spencer Henn capped the rally with an RBI double, his first professional hit, to push the advantage to 5-1.
The Crushers got two runs back in the bottom of the frame, but Zac Westcott (1-0) minimized the damage and kept Southern Illinois in front. The Miners would later add insurance to their lead with a Gianfranco Wawoe home run in the seventh inning and a two-run single by Earley in the eighth for an 8-3 advantage.
Again Lake Erie would respond with two runs of their own in the eighth, this time without the aid of a hit, but Ryan Miller got out of a jam with the tying run at the plate by striking out Brody Wofford to preserve the lead. Kyle Hinton then worked a flawless ninth with two strikeouts to earn the save.
Earley finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs to lead the offense, which featured at least one hit from eight of the nine starters. Massey reached base five times at the top of the order, going 3-for-3 with two runs scored. Henn and Rich also finished with two hits, one run scored, and one RBI apiece in the balanced effort. On the mound, Westcott pitched five innings with four strikeouts to get the victory in his Miners debut.
Southern Illinois will look to make it back-to-back wins to start 2021 in the second and final game of the series against the Crushers on Friday, May 28, at 6:05 pm CT, sending Kaleb Schmidt to the mound against former Miner Robby Rowland at Mercy Health Stadium.