The Southern Illinois Miners lost in stunning and heartbreaking fashion on Saturday night to the Gateway Grizzlies, dropping a 12-11 decision in 12 innings at GCS Credit Union Ballpark after coming back in dramatic fashion to tie the score on Nolan Earley's three-run home run in the ninth inning.
The Grizzlies led for most of the game after scoring two runs in the bottom of the first against Jordan Brink on RBI singles by Audie Afenir and Cody Livesay. The Miners got a run back thanks to a sacrifice fly from Kyle Davis in the second inning, but Blake Brown answered with a solo home run in the bottom half. Again, the Miners would get a run and make it 3-2 on a sacrifice fly, this time from Luke Bonfield, but again Brown homered in the same inning to make it a 4-2 game.
That's the way it stayed until the top of the eighth inning. Back-to-back walks and a wild pitch set the Miners up with runners at second and third with one out, and Bonfield's RBI groundout made it 4-3 before Davis came up clutch with a single to tie the game at 4-4.
The tie did not last long, as Gateway plated three runs in the bottom of the eighth against Kyle Tinius on a throwing error and a two-run double by Trae Santos. Down 7-4 entering the ninth, the Miners got a pair of runners on base for Earley, who battled with Gateway closer Grant Black for 11 pitches, working the count full. With the team down to its final strike, on the 12th pitch of the at-bat, Earley lined a game-tying, three-run homer to right field to send the contest to extra innings.
After neither side scored in the 10th, the Miners broke ahead in the 11th inning- with the International Tiebreaker in effect, putting an automatic runner at second base to start the frame, Joe Duncan reached on an error by Jeff Cardenas at third base, and Romeo Cortina singled home a run to make it 8-7. Three batters later, with the bases loaded, Bonfield drew a walk to force home another run, and Davis' sacrifice fly would extend the Miners lead to 10-7.
But against Steven Ridings in the bottom of the 11th, the Grizzlies came back. Afenir's one-out single brought home the automatic runner and made it 10-8, and with two outs, Chace Sarchet walked and Cardenas singled to load the bases before Brent Sakurai tied the game (also down to his final strike) with a single to center field, sending it to the 12th inning at 10-10.
In the 12th, Cortina gave the Miners the lead again with a sacrifice fly at 11-10, but in the bottom half against Kody Rock, Santos doubled immediately to tie the game at 12-12, scoring the automatic runner. After Santos was sacrificed to third base, Rock (1-2) threw a wild pitch, allowing Santos to score the winning run.
The loss eliminated the Miners from postseason contention. Southern Illinois will look to win their season finale in the rubber match of the series against the Grizzlies on Sunday, September 2nd, at 6:05 p.m.
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.