The Southern Illinois Miners trailed the Gateway Grizzlies 6-5 entering the bottom of the 10th inning at Rent One Park on Saturday night, but fought back to win in dramatic, walk-off fashion when Luke Bonfield doubled in the tying and winning runs in an improbable 7-6 victory, evening the series at one game apiece and pulling the Miners within one game of first place in the Frontier League's West Division.
The Miners grabbed the early lead in the first against Gateway starter Joe Hauser, as Joe Duncan reached on a leadoff bunt single and went to second on a throwing error by Jeff Cardenas at third base. A pair of groundouts got him home, with the RBI for Nolan Earley as Southern Illinois led 1-0. But Gateway would respond off Aaron Rozek in the second inning, with Mitch Piatnik stealing home to tie the game at 1-1 before Blake Brown's two-out RBI single made it 2-1.
After Gateway added on in the third to make it 3-1 on a groundout by Brent Sakurai, the Miners would scratch across another run off Hauser when Earley singled Duncan home with two outs in the bottom of the inning to cut the deficit to 3-2. But the Grizzlies would again respond with two of their own on a Brown RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Justin Ellison, making it 5-2. Jordan Brink, making his Southern Illinois debut, would hold the line there out of the bullpen over the next three innings, allowing the Miners to make their first comeback of the night.
After Harrison Bragg led off the fifth inning with a double, he moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Duncan sacrifice fly to make it 5-3. In the sixth, with Earley and Romeo Cortina on base via hits, Kurt Wertz, Jr. powered a game-tying double off the right-center field wall to make it 5-5. That's where the score stayed through the rest of regulation, sending the contest to extra innings.
In the tenth, Gateway got an infield hit from Cardenas leading off against Kyle Tinius, and a sacrifice and a single put runners at the corners with one out. Tinius (4-2) struck out pinch-hitter Trae Santos for the second out, but on a comebacker to the mound by Paul Russo, Tinius slipped and fell after fielding the ball, with his throw to first base sailing down the line to plate Cardenas and make it 6-5 Grizzlies.
The Miners were not done. With one out against Kevin Simmons (0-3) in the bottom of the 10th, Chance Shepard and Cortina both walked, putting the potential tying and winning runs on base. Bonfield, who pinch-hit for Wertz in the eighth, then came up huge, doubling down the right field line to score both runners and win the game for Southern Illinois.
Bonfield joined Wertz and Earley with two RBIs apiece, with Earley, Duncan and Bragg enjoying two-hit games as well as the Miners secured their seventh walk-off win of the season. They will next go for a series win against the Grizzlies on Sunday, August 19th, at 5:05 p.m. Steven Ridings will pitch for Southern Illinois against Gateway's Taso Stathopoulos in the rubber match.
The Southern Illinois Miners are the Frontier League's winningest franchise since debuting in 2007, winning the 2012 Frontier League Championship as well as division titles in 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2016. They have been awarded the Frontier League Organization of the Year award three times since their inception, and also set a new Frontier League attendance record in their inaugural season. For ticket information, contact the box office at (618) 998-8499. For additional information, visit our website at www.siminers.com.