The Southern Illinois Miners broke a 4-4 tie in the top of the eighth, scoring two runs to take the lead for good in beating the Gateway Grizzlies 6-4 at GCS Credit Union Ballpark, taking the opener of the series, keeping their playoff hopes alive, and clinching the eleventh winning season in the franchise's twelve-year history.
Gateway scored the first two runs of the game, amassing four hits total including a two-run single by Audie Afenir to take a 2-0 lead against Kurt Heyer, but the Miners righty settled down and threw four scoreless innings after that. Southern Illinois' offense, meanwhile, got back in the game- three straight singles loaded the bases with no one out in the top of the second inning for Anthony Critelli, whose double play groundout to shortstop brought home the Miners' first run and made it 2-1 Grizzlies.
In the following inning, Max Dutto and Joe Duncan both walked, and two batters later, Nolan Earley crushed his second home run in as many nights, a three-run bomb deep over the right field wall to put the Miners ahead 4-2. It stayed 4-2 until the sixth inning, when the Grizzlies loaded the bases against Heyer and then got a clutch, two-out, two-run, game-tying single from Jeff Cardenas to knot the score at 4-4.
The Grizzlies put the potential lead runs on base in the seventh, but Nick Durazo struck out two to get out of the jam, and the Miners took the lead in the next half-inning. Romeo Cortina led off with a single against Josh Glick (2-4), and Earley walked to bring up Chance Shepard, who hit a ground ball to third base. After Cardenas threw to second for the force-out, Shane Mardirosian's relay to first got away past the bag, allowing Cortina to score the go-ahead run and make it 5-4 Miners.
Later in the frame, with two outs, Critelli drove home an insurance run with a broken-bat floater to left field off the glove of the shortstop to extend the lead to 6-4. Gateway would go quietly from there, as Durazo (2-1) struck out the side in the eighth to finish with a career-high five in the game, and Zach Hartman fanned two more in the ninth for his fourth save as the Miners claimed the victory.
The Miners stayed alive in the hunt for a wild card playoff spot with the win, and will look to do so again with a win and an Evansville loss on Saturday, September 1st, at 7:05 p.m. Jordan Brink will get the start against the Grizzlies for Southern Illinois, who will face Grizzlies righty Alec Kisena in the middle game of the weekend series in Sauget.
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.