The Southern Illinois Miners got a huge, go-ahead solo home run from Taylor Sparks in the eighth inning on Sunday, putting a cap on a game that saw them come back from down 4-0 in the first inning for a 6-5 victory over the Evansville Otters at Rent One Park in the 2019 season finale.
Evansville used an error by Sparks along with four hits and two walks to put up four runs in the top of the first inning against starter Jake Waters, putting Southern Illinois behind immediately. Waters then settled in, beginning a streak of 10 straight batters retired that spanned through the fourth inning, and in the bottom of the first inning, the Miners responded in kind to the Otters' big frame.
Leadoff singles by Yeltsin Gudino and Gianfranco Wawoe off Otters starter Jake Welch preceded an RBI double from Jamey Smart that made it 4-1. Kyle Davis then brought in Wawoe with a ground ball to third base to cut the deficit to 4-2, and Arturo Nieto followed by cranking an RBI double of his own to left-center field to bring the Miners within 4-3. Joe Duncan would then drive in the tying run on an RBI single to left field, knotting the score at 4-4 after just one inning played.
Neither side scored from there until the top of the fifth inning, when a single followed by a wild pitch and two groundouts brought in the lead run and made the score 5-4 Otters. But just like in the first inning, Southern Illinois responded- Smart reached second base safely on a fielder's choice and error off the bat of Sergio Lopez, and Nieto then smacked his second RBI double of the night to left-center field to make it a 5-5 game after five innings.
Thanks to Waters as well as relievers Heath Renz and Will Headean (3-1), the score remained tied at 5-5 heading to the bottom of the eighth. Sparks came up to lead off the inning, and blasted the first pitch he saw from Michael Gizzi (0-2) deep over the center field fence, with his 10th home run of the season in just 36 games with the club making the score 6-5 Southern Illinois. In the top of the ninth, the Otters drew two walks to get the tying and potential lead runs on base with one out, but Jake Godfrey got David Cronin to line back to the mound to start a game-ending double-play, giving the Miners the season-ending series victory.
Nieto and Smart both enjoyed three-hit games for Southern Illinois, with the Miners out-hitting the Otters 13 to six in the contest overall, and 29 to nine over the last two games of the weekend, allowing them to take it two games to one and finish their 2019 season at 53-43.
Be sure to follow the Miners online at southernillinoisminers.com and on social media as they prepare for the 2020 season!
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.