The Southern Illinois Miners hit a trio of solo home runs, two of which by Nolan Earley, and an outstanding start from Kurt Heyer on the mound in topping the Lake Erie Crushers 3-2 to improve to 2-0 overall and take their season-opening series at Rent One Park on Saturday night.
Earley began the scoring by crushing an 0-2 pitch from Lake Erie starter Franderlin Romero (0-1) over the right-center field fence to give the Miners a 1-0 lead. Thanks to Heyer (1-0), that lead would stand up as the visitors managed just two infield singles against him in the first five innings, with Heyer striking out six to keep the Crushers off-balance at the plate.
Lake Erie would get to the Miners' starter in the sixth inning, however, as after a leadoff walk, Dalton Wheat tripled to left-center field to tie the game at 1-1, and Kevin LaChance hit the next pitch to center field for a sacrifice fly to put the Crushers up 2-1. Heyer would strike out his seventh and final batter of the game to end the threat, keeping the score close.
The Miners' offense then answered in kind, with Chance Shepard smacking his second homer in as many games to deep left-center field to knot the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth. Three batters later, Earley took a 3-2 pitch the opposite way over the left field wall down the line for his second home run of the contest, giving the black and gold a 3-2 advantage.
The Southern Illinois bullpen then made the lead stand up, as Tre Hobbs and Austin Dubsky combined for a scoreless seventh and eighth before closer John Werner struck out two in a perfect ninth inning for his first save of the season and the 23rd of his Miners career, extending his own franchise record.
Earley finished 2-for-3 with two long balls representing his first-career multi-homer game, while Shepard finished 1-for-4 with his game-tying solo shot. Heyer received the win on the mound for the Miners, allowing just two runs and three hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in six innings of work.
The Miners will now go for a season-opening sweep on Sunday, May 13th at 5:05 p.m., with Geno Encina making his Miners debut against Lake Erie right-hander Juan Perez.
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.