The Southern Illinois Miners got early runs on the board against the Florence Freedom, coupled with an outstanding start from Chase Cunningham, and turned aside a late rally by the home team to win 7-6 at UC Health Stadium in the third game of the four-game holiday week series.
After Florence starter Scott Sebald (2-1) struck out the first two batters of the game, Stephen Lohr doubled to left field, and Kyle Davis followed with a two-run home run deep over the left field wall to put Southern Illinois up 2-0. Cunningham (6-2) then proceeded to dominate, as he retired the first nine batters he faced in the contest while striking out five of them to hold the two-run edge.
The Miners extended their lead against Sebald in the fifth inning. Jarrod Watkins led off with a single and went to third base when the ball got by Ricky Ramirez, Jr. in right field for an error. Joe Duncan then doubled him home for a 3-0 Miners lead, and Bryant Flete followed with a double of his own to make it 4-0. A passed ball moved Flete to third base, and after Lohr made it 5-0 with a sacrifice fly, Davis then doubled and was driven in on a two-out single by Jamey Smart for a 6-0 cushion.
The Freedom loaded the bases and scored two runs on a one-out single by Ramirez to cut the lead to 6-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, but Cunningham minimized damage by retiring the final two batters of the frame, including his ninth strikeout of the night. The right-hander would then fan two more in the seventh inning to conclude his start with a career-high 11 strikeouts and just two runs allowed on four hits.
The Miners would add on insurance in the top of the ninth when Smart yet again drove in a run with a two-out single, making the score 7-2, and that would prove to be the winning run. Florence loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the frame against Heath Renz, and Benjamin Dum came on and struck out Austin Wobrock for the second out. A pair of two-run singles by Connor Crane and Isaac Benard made it 7-6 and put the tying run on first base, but Dum struck out Andre Mercurio swinging to secure the victory as the Miners improved to 26-20 on the season.
Flete finished with three hits in the contest for Southern Illinois offensively, while Davis and Smart both went 2-for-5 with two RBIs. The Miners will look to make it back-to-back wins and a series split against the Freedom on Thursday night at 5:35 p.m., with Austin Dubsky pitching for the Miners against Florence southpaw Mike Castellani on Independence Day.
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.