The Southern Illinois Miners came back from an early four-run deficit on Friday night by scoring five runs in the first inning to surge ahead, and Zac Westcott tossed six innings to set a new Miners franchise record with his 14th victory of the season en route to an 8-4 win over the Gateway Grizzlies at Rent One Park in Marion.
Gateway opened the scoring in a big way in the top of the first, loading the bases for Jay Prather with one out before the outfielder followed with a bases-clearing triple to put the Grizzlies ahead 3-0. Dustin Woodcock then brought Prather home with a sacrifice fly to make the score 4-0 after just one-half inning of play.
But the Miners' offense also brought the thunder in the bottom half, coming all the way back by scoring five times to take a 5-4 lead. Bryant Flete led off with a single, and Nolan Earley doubled to left-center field to bring him home and make it 4-1. Two batters later, Jamey Smart singled home Earley to make it a 4-2 game, and Jared Mang followed by hitting a two-run home run over the left-center field wall to tie the contest at 4-4. With two outs later in the inning, Anthony Brocato doubled and came home on a Jarrod Watkins RBI single to put the Miners in front for good.
The Miners' offense was not done, as after back-to-back leadoff walks in the second inning, Smart lined his second RBI single of the night into left field to score Flete and make it 6-4 Southern Illinois. In the fourth inning, Flete was again on base for Earley, who launched a two-run homer down the right field line for what turned out to be the final margin of 8-4.
Meanwhile, Westcott (14-3) settled down after the first inning to hold the Grizzlies off the board for the rest of his historic start, striking out five and walking two to set a new Miners franchise record for victories in a single season, breaking a tie with Frontier League hall-of-famer Ryan Bird, who previously won 13 games in 2008. It was Westcott's seventh straight win as well, tying Bird's franchise record in that regard, also from 2008.
Stevie Ledesma then pitched the final three innings to earn the save as the Miners took the series opener. Earley finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored, while both Smart and Mang ended up 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored each. Flete also scored three runs at the top of the order as the Miners bounced back against the Grizzlies.
Southern Illinois will look to clinch the series in the middle game on Saturday, September 11, at 6:05 p.m. Gunnar Kines will make the start for the Miners against former Miner Jesse Remington 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.