The Southern Illinois Miners trailed nearly the entire game against the Gateway Grizzlies on Friday night in Sauget, but rallied back to score twice in the ninth and notch a 4-3 victory at GCS Credit Union Ballpark in the opener of the weekend series.
The Grizzlies got the lead in the bottom of the first inning against Chase Cunningham at 1-0 with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Dustin Woodcock, but Cunningham minimized the damage and settled into a groove for the next few innings on the mound. Southern Illinois had runners on base against Gateway starter Jordan Barrett throughout his five innings of work, but could not get the big hit they needed to break through, stranding eight men on base against him including five in scoring position.
Gateway would add on against Cunningham with a two-out RBI single in back-to-back innings- they took a 2-0 lead on Brent Sakurai's clutch knock in the fifth inning, and then after Joe Duncan responded with a two-out, RBI hit of his own that got the Miners on the board, Andrew Daniel came up with two outs and singled into left field to make it 3-1 Grizzlies after six full innings.
In the seventh inning, Anthony Jimenez got the Miners back within a single run at 3-2 with a leadoff solo home run to right-center field, and after stranding the tying run in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings, Southern Illinois came up in the ninth inning still down a run after Jordan Brink (1-2) pitched a scoreless frame in the bottom of the eighth.
Jimenez led off the ninth with a walk, and Gianfranco Wawoe hit a ground ball that just stayed fair up the third base line, with Connor Owings' throw to second base not in time to get a hustling Jimenez. A wild pitch by Dakota Smith (0-1) put the runners at second and third base with still no one out in the inning, and Stephen Lohr came through with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 3-3. Andy Cosgrove then followed by hitting a go-ahead sacrifice fly to center field to score Wawoe and give the Miners their first lead of the night at 4-3.
That lead would hold up as Gabe Gentner struck out two for his seventh save of the season as the Miners took the series opener. In the process, Cunningham threw his ninth-straight "quality start," allowing three runs in six innings with seven strikeouts, while Jimenez led the offense with a 2-for-3 game that included two walks and two runs scored along with an RBI.
The Miners will look for the series victory in the middle game of the series on Saturday, June 29, at 7:05 p.m. Austin Dubsky will pitch for Southern Illinois against Gateway right-hander Chris Carden.
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.