The Southern Illinois Miners won their ninth game in a row at Rent One Park on Tuesday night, beating the Evansville Otters in shutout fashion 7-0 behind seven brilliant innings from starter Zac Westcott to move back within 2.5 games of first place in the West Division standings.
Westcott (12-3) set the tone early with five strikeouts in his first three innings of work, retiring the first eight batters he faced overall in the game. Evansville starter Ryan O'Reilly (5-4) matched him pitch for pitch through the first three frames, but Southern Illinois' offense got going in a big way in the bottom of the fourth inning to take control of the contest.
Jamey Smart led off with a single, and Ian Walters followed up with an infield single to put runners at first and second base for Anthony Brocato, whose RBI double to right-center field scored Smart to make it 1-0. Arturo Nieto then followed with a single up the middle to plate two runs and put the Miners up 3-0. With two outs in the same inning, Nolan Earley also hit an RBI single for a 4-0 Southern Illinois lead.
The Miners would add on to their lead in the fifth inning when Walters chased O'Reilly from the game with a two-run home run to right field, putting the home team up 6-0. Earley would also add on the team's final run in the top of the sixth when he brought home Bryant Flete, who had doubled off reliever Jacob Bowles, with another two-out RBI single for a 7-0 advantage.
Westcott cruised from there, blanking the Otters on just four hits over seven frames while walking none and tying a season-high with nine strikeouts for the fourth start in a row. In the process, he recorded his Frontier League-leading 12th win of the year, becoming the second Miner to ever record that many wins in a single season.
The veteran right-hander also extended a personal shutout streak to 22 2/3 innings as Southern Illinois posted their ninth win in a row on their home field, their 13th shutout victory of the year, and their fourth in a row against the Otters without allowing a single run. In addition, Southern Illinois gained ground on both the Otters and the Florence Y'alls in the West Division, getting within one game of Florence for second place while closing within 2.5 games of Evansville for first.
The Miners will look to keep their momentum going in the middle game of the series on Wednesday, September 1, at 7:05 p.m., with Chase Cunningham slated to start on the mound against Evansville's Austin Gossmann at Rent One Park.
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.