The Southern Illinois Miners got outstanding pitching on Wednesday night against the Normal CornBelters at Rent One Park, and came back from an early deficit to go ahead on a two-run burst in the sixth inning that included a go-ahead homer by Craig Massoni in a 3-2 triumph to even the midweek series.
Normal again struck first, as they scored an unearned run off Zach Cooper on a groundout by Aaron Dudley for a 1-0 lead in the first inning, then added a second run in the second frame, also on an RBI groundout by Brian Hakes, to make the score 2-0. Cooper (4-8), however, would shut down the CornBelters from there, allowing just two baserunners in the next four innings while striking out five batters in that span to help keep the game close.
In the fourth inning, the Miners got on the board when Craig Massey and Nolan Earley led off against Shawn Blackwell (5-4) with singles to put runners at first and third base for Massoni, who hit into a double play to score Massey and make it 2-1. Then in the sixth inning, Massey reached on an error by Jesus Solorzano in left field, then was able to score from second base when Earley flew out to center field in the next at-bat thanks to a throwing error by Diego Cedeno, with the ball bouncing on the warning track along the length of the CornBelters dugout to tie the score at 2-2. Massoni then drove a 2-0 pitch the other way into the Miners' bullpen for a go-ahead solo home run to put Southern Illinois ahead 3-2.
The Miners' bullpen would hold the line from there, with John Werner pitching a flawless ninth inning for his West Division-leading 17th save of the season. Cooper earned his second-straight win on the mound with his third-straight "quality start," allowing just one earned run on three hits in six innings with two walks and five strikeouts. Massey led the charge by going 2-for-4 at the plate as Southern Illinois won the low-scoring contest despite Blackwell pitching the entire game for Normal, striking out nine in the losing effort.
Southern Illinois will go for the series win in a rubber match on Thursday night at 7:05 p.m., with Robby Rowland making his home debut for Southern Illinois opposite Normal southpaw Scott Sebald on "Stand Up For Blue" Night as the Miners will honor their local law enforcement before and during the game.
The Southern Illinois Miners are the 2016 Frontier League West Division Champions, the 2014 and 2015 Frontier League East Division Champions and the 2012 Frontier League Champions. 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 2007, their inaugural season. For ticket information, contact the Rent One Park box office at (618) 998-8499. For any additional information, visit our website at www.southernillinoisminers.com.