The Southern Illinois Miners used a stout team offensive effort, rapping out 17 hits as a squad and backing a strong six-inning start by Robby Rowland to defeat the Lake Erie Crushers 12-4 on Opening Night at Rent One Park in Marion.
The game was scoreless for the first three innings as Rowland (1-0) and Crushers starter Donald Murray (0-1) held the other team without a run. Lake Erie scored first in the contest, with a double-play ground ball bringing home a runner from third base to make it 1-0 in the top of the fourth.
But the Miners' offense came to life in the bottom of the inning, as they chased Murray and batted around in the frame. Romeo Cortina walked with one out and was driven in by Nolan Earley on a double to tie the score. Anthony Critelli then knocked a single up the middle to score Earley and give Southern Illinois the lead for good at 2-1. Later in the frame, a bases-loaded walk by Corey Dempster and a sacrifice fly by John Holland, both making their Miners debuts, pushed the lead out to 4-1.
The runs would not run dry the rest of the night for Southern Illinois, as they scored in each of their last five turns at-bat in the game. They scored a single tally in the fifth inning, and after the Crushers got two back in the sixth to make it 5-3, the Miners would score three runs in the sixth and seventh innings to put the game away. Chance Shepard hit his first Miners homer and tripled in two more runs as part of the outburst, which concluded in the eighth when Southern Illinois scored a single run on a double by Dempster.
Shepard led the charge, finishing a double away from the cycle by going 3-for-5 with a triple, home run, two runs scored and three RBIs. Earley and Luis Jean also had three hits in their season debuts for the Miners, with Earley doubling and scoring three runs. London Lindley, Critelli and Dempster added two hits apiece in the strong showing on Opening Night.
On the mound, Rowland earned the win by pitching six innings and scattering seven hits with five strikeouts in a "quality start," as the Miners improved to 10-2 in season-opening contests in their history. They will look to start the year with a series win when they take on the Crushers on Saturday, May 12th at 6:05 p.m. Kurt Heyer will make his Southern Illinois debut on the mound against Lake Erie right-hander Franderlin Romero.
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.