The Southern Illinois Miners swept a doubleheader from the Gateway Grizzlies on Sunday night at GCS Credit Union Ballpark, winning game one 10-8 in seven innings before outlasting the home team 4-3 in a home run derby to clinch a series sweep in Sauget
In game one, the offense erupted early, as in the top of the first inning with two men on base and two outs, Anthony Brocato hit a three-run home run to left field, his team-best 17th of the season, to put the Miners ahead 3-0. Jack Harris would respond against Zac Westcott (13-3) with a solo shot in the bottom of the first, but the Miners kept up the offense against Ryan Mordecai (0-1), with Jared Mang driving in a run with two outs on an RBI single in the top of the third inning to make it 4-1. After a walk to Arturo Nieto extended the frame, Jarrod Watkins followed by hitting a three-run homer, his second long ball of the series, to push the lead out to 7-1.
Still, the Miners were not done offensively, as in the fourth inning, again with two men on base and two outs, Ian Walters joined the party by hitting Southern Illinois' third three-run home run of the game, chasing Mordecai and making the score 10-1. The Grizzlies would then make a comeback, scoring three runs right back in the bottom of the fourth off Westcott to make it 10-4, and then chasing him from the game as part of a four-run sixth inning to cut the lead all the way to 10-8, with the tying runs in scoring position. But Blake Stelzer struck out Dustin Woodcock to end the threat, and Augie Voight struck out the side in the seventh to earn the save and deliver the Miners the game one victory.
Westcott got the win, his 13th of the year to tie Frontier League Hall-of-Famer Ryan Bird's single-season franchise record, and also became the first Miners pitcher since Bird in 2008 (and second ever) to win six consecutive starts. In addition, the veteran became the first 13-game winner in the Frontier League since 2013.
Game two also started well in the top of the first, with Bryant Flete leading off the game with a solo home run to make it 1-0 Miners. But the Grizzlies would score three of their own in the bottom of the first, and eventually build a 5-1 lead heading to the top of the fifth inning. That's when the Miners would pounce- Brocato led off with a walk, and a pair of singles with one out loaded the bases for Flete, who cleared them with a three-run double that brought Southern Illinois within 5-4. Mang then came up, and blasted a two-run home run out to left field, putting the Miners ahead 6-5. An RBI double by Jamey Smart later in the inning would make the score 7-5 and cap the six-run rally.
But the Grizzlies came back again, tying the game in the bottom of the sixth on a two-run home run by Connor Owings at 7-7. The game went to extra innings tied, and after the Miners could not score in the International Tiebreaker in the top of the eighth, Gateway had a chance to walk it off in the bottom half when Abdiel Diaz lifted a deep fly ball to left-center field with the winning run on second base and one out. Mang saved the game, however, with a diving catch on the warning track, and Stelzer struck out Harris swinging to send the contest to a home run derby.
In the derby, Nolan Earley hit three home runs as the Miners' first hitter while Harris could muster only one. Flete then made it 4-1 with one of his own, and Andres Regnault bashed two to answer and bring the Grizzlies within 4-3. After Watkins could not hit one over the fence, Jay Prather also came up empty for Gateway, clinching the game for the Miners.
After finishing up their road schedule at an even 24-24 with the series sweep, the Miners now return home for their final six regular season home games, with a three-game series against the Florence Y'alls beginning on Tuesday, September 7, at 7:05 p.m.
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.