The Southern Illinois Miners fell behind early, then rallied to make it close before the River City Rascals scored four times in the last two innings to put the game out of reach, as the 7-2 final result evened up the Division Series at one game apiece and set up a do-or-die Game Three on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. at Rent One Park in Marion.
Pitcher of the Year Adam Lopez (0-1) got off to a phenomenal start, striking out the side in the first as part of a 12-strikeout night to tie his season and career-high total. Zach Kometani, however, drove a 1-1 pitch into the Miners’ bullpen to open up the scoring in the second and make it 1-0. After a leadoff walk began the third, a bunt single by Casey Rodrigue and a sacrifice fly by Johnny Morales after a wild pitch made the score 2-0. Another wild pitch in the frame made the score 3-0 Rascals.
The Miners fought back by scoring two runs in the fourth inning. Frank Martinez laced a double to right and Niko Vasquez drove him home with an RBI single to make it 3-1. Later in the inning, with two outs and Steve Marino on first, Brian Portelli lifted a fly ball into right-center field. Jackson Slaid dove to try and catch the baseball, but could only trap it. A hustling Marino went to third on the play and scored thanks to Slaid’s throwing error back toward the infield.
That made the score 3-2, and Lopez would work into, then out of trouble several times in the last few innings he pitched, eventually lasting six and two-thirds innings. The Miners’ offense, though, was shut down by the Rascals’ pitching, as after a one-out walk by Aaron Gates in the fifth inning, Southern Illinois did not have a baserunner until the ninth, when Marino doubled with two outs. In between, the Rascals would score three runs in the eighth off of Evan Mott on a suicide squeeze bunt by Josh Silver and a double by Rodrigue. They would also get a run with one out in the ninth on two stolen bases by Taylor Ard plus another wild pitch on the second steal for the final 7-2 margin.
The Miners now face off against the rival Rascals in a winner-take-all Game Three of the series on Sunday evening at Rent One Park. Rick Teasley will pitch for the Miners against River City’s Dane Stone, with the winner advancing to play the Traverse City Beach Bums in the championship series.