The Southern Illinois Miners kept up their winning ways on Saturday at Rent One Park, beating the River City Rascals 4-3 to take their fifth straight victory and seventh in their last eight games overall while improving to 12-2 at home this season.
It did not begin well for the Miners or rookie starter Greg Marino, who was making his professional debut. The tall right-hander hit J.D. Hearn leading off the first inning and two batters later walked Kameron Esthay before Braxton Martinez snuck a double inside the right field line for a 1-0 River City lead. Nolan Meadows followed with a two-run double to right field and the Rascals had a 3-0 advantage, but Marino struck out two to hold the line there.
The Miners had runners on base all night against River City starter Travis McQueen, however, as they began their comeback in the bottom of the second inning. Jarrod Watkins singled to lead off and later in the frame was driven in by Bryant Flete on a single to make it a 3-1 game. They were then able to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth inning when Flete smacked a one-out double down the right field line followed by an Anthony Jimenez walk and Gianfranco Wawoe single to load the bases. Stephen Lohr brought in a run with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2, and Kyle Davis followed by rocking a double to left-center field which tied the score at 3-3.
With Marino (1-0) settling in to keep the Rascals at bay on the mound, Southern Illinois took the lead for good in the fifth against reliever Kyle Fimbrez. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Joe Duncan and Flete both singled, and Jimenez reached on an infield hit to the right side, with Duncan hustling all the way from second base to score the go-ahead run and make it 4-3 Miners.
The Miners' bullpen then made the lead stand up, with scoreless innings from Heath Renz, Benjamin Dum, Jordan Brink and Gabe Gentner polishing off the series-clinching victory. Gentner recorded his fourth save in the contest, and Marino earned the victory in his pro debut by lasting five innings and holding the Rascals off the board after their three-run rally in the first inning, walking four and striking out five.
The Miners will now go for a perfect homestand on Sunday in the series finale and look to sweep the Rascals at 5:05 p.m. at Rent One Park, sending Marty Anderson to the hill against a Rascals starter yet to be announced.
The Southern Illinois Miners are the Frontier League's most-successful 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.southernillinoisminers.com.