The Southern Illinois Miners got a career performance from Ian Walters, as the rookie set career highs in hits with four and runs batted in with seven to pace a team-wide offensive onslaught in a 13-11 slugfest win over the Gateway Grizzlies on Saturday night at Rent One Park.
Southern Illinois got the initial lead by scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Jamey Smart opened the scoring by drawing a bases-loaded walk off Gateway starter Jesse Remington, and later in the inning with two outs, Walters drove in two more runs with a single to make the score 3-0. Gateway would respond in the next two innings, getting on the board on a Jose Rosario solo home run at 3-1 in the second, then knocking Gunnar Kines out of the game with a five-run top of the third. The visitors scored all of their runs with two outs in the frame, with a go-ahead, bases-clearing, three-run double by Dustin Woodcock putting the Grizzlies ahead 6-3.
The Miners' offense then got to work again with two outs in the bottom of the third- Anthony Brocato hit an RBI double to deep left-center field to score Nolan Earley from first base to make it 6-4, and Walters followed with another RBI single to cut the deficit to 6-5. In the fourth inning, Bryant Flete led off with a double and came home to tie the score at 6-6 on an RBI single by Earley.
The Grizzlies would use a double by Rosario, a passed ball, and a sacrifice fly by Jay Prather to re-take the lead at 7-6 in the top of the fifth inning, but the Miners would surge ahead against Andrew Cartier (2-2) in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead for good. Flete led off with a solo home run to tie the score at 7-7, and Smart rapped an RBI single into center field with two runners aboard later in the frame to put the Miners ahead 8-7. Brocato then walked to load the bases for Walters, who hit a grand slam home run over the right field fence to give him seven RBIs on the night and put the Miners up 12-7.
Gateway threatened that lead in the next half inning, scoring four runs on five straight hits against Blake Stelzer in the top of the seventh, making the score 12-11 with the tying run in scoring position and only one out. But Joey Pulido kept the lead intact by recording the final two outs of the frame, then finished off the game with scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth to earn the save as the Miners clinched the weekend series.
Walters finished 4-for-5 with a double, home run, and seven RBIs in the game to lead a 14-hit attack, while Earley also tied his career high with four hits in a 4-for-4 game with three runs scored. Flete ended up 2-for-3 on the night with a double, home run, three runs scored and an RBI, while Brocato chipped in with a 2-for-4 game, two runs scored, and an RBI as the Miners won their seventh straight game against the Grizzlies overall.
Southern Illinois will look to sweep Gateway in the season finale on Sunday, September 12, at 5:05 p.m., with Chase Cunningham on the mound against Grizzlies right-hander Sam Gardner to conclude the 2021 campaign.
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. In addition, they have sent 60 players to MLB organizations in their 14 years of operation. For ticket information, contact the box office at (618) 998-8499. For additional information, visit our website at www.southernillinoisminers.com.