EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- The Southern Illinois Miners allowed six runs in the bottom of the second inning on Sunday evening at Bosse Field in Evansville, and despite scoring three times in the ninth, fell short in a 7-4 defeat against the Evansville Otters, who swept the weekend series.
The Miners are now 18-18 and in third place in the Frontier League's West Division standings. Evansville (21-17) into a tie for first place with River City with the sweep.
In the bottom of the second inning, a pair of leadoff walks by starter Austin Dubsky led to a crooked frame, as after an RBI single by Mike Rizzitello and a bases-loaded walk by David Cronin made the score 2-0, Ryan Long's grand slam put the Miners in a deep hole.
Aaron Rozek came on in relief of Dubsky (2-1), and held the line for the Miners over five innings, permitting only one run on two hits and one walk with a pair of strikeouts. Offensively, the Miners managed just one run off of Austin Nicely (3-2), on a two-out RBI double by Chance Shepard in the sixth inning.
The Otters would answer on a Rizzitello sac fly in the same inning to make the score 7-1, a score that held until a late push by Southern Illinois in the ninth.
With one out, Romeo Cortina singled and Ben Moore was hit by a pitch. After a long, 10-pitch at-bat, Harrison Bragg doubled down the right field line to make the score 7-2, and Luis Jean reached on an error by Toby Thomas at shortstop which scored Moore. Austin Homan followed with a sacrifice fly to deep left field to get the Miners within 7-4, but they would get no closer in suffering the loss, their ninth in their last 11 games overall.
On Saturday, the Miners had a 4-0 lead heading into the fifth inning, and also a 6-5 lead in the eighth, but could not hold either advantage as late mistakes cost them in an 8-6 loss.
The Miners got started quickly, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning on an RBI single by Marc DiLeo, a grounder to shortstop by Bragg that was booted for an error with the bases loaded, and a sacrifice fly by Nolan Earley for a quick multi-run lead against Otters starter Tyler Vail.
Joe Dudek took Vail out of the park in the top of the third, hitting his seventh homer of the season out to left field to make it 4-0.
Starter Steven Ridings, making his Southern Illinois debut, was brilliant in the first four innings, allowing just two baserunners with four strikeouts, but the Otters sent eight batters to the plate and tied the score at 4-4 on Toby Thomas' sacrifice fly.
The score stayed 4-4 until the bottom of the seventh, when the Otters got an unearned run to take the lead, as after Patrick Duester walked Manny Cruz, with two outs after a pitching change, a two-base throwing error by Kyle Tinius moved Cruz to third base. Thomas followed with an infield hit that made the score 5-4.
It would not stay that way for long, as on the first pitch of the next half inning, Shepard blasted his Frontier League-best 12th homer of the year to straightaway center field to tie the game at 5-5. Later in the inning, with a runner at second base and two outs, Moore came through with an RBI double down the left field line to make it 6-5.
But after Michael Starcevich got the first two outs of the bottom of the eighth with a man at first base, Joe DeLuca worked a walk, and Cruz singled to right field, bringing in the tying run. A throwing error on Shepard trying to nab DeLuca sliding into third base then allowed the go-ahead run to score, and David Cronin followed with an RBI single of his own to make it 8-6 Otters.
In the top of the ninth, with two outs, Shepard singled and Chris Scura worked a walk to put the tying run on first base, but Mitchell Aker struck out Bragg looking to end the game.
The Miners had just two hits in Friday's series opener, which Evansville won 6-0. The Miners were never able to get going against Otters starter Luc Rennie (4-0), who permitted a walk in the first to Cortina, a double to Kurt Wertz Jr. leading off the second inning and a one-out single by Joe Duncan in the sixth as the only baserunners. Rennie struck out 12 over eight shutout innings.
The Miners return home to Rent One Park to begin a six-game homestand on Tuesday against the Florence Freedom.