Miners extend win streak to five with sweep of Grizzlies
MARION -- The Southern Illinois Miners received a stellar start by rookie left-hander Aaron Rozek on the mound on Sunday night at Rent One Park, grabbing the lead in the early innings and never letting go in a 5-2 victory over the Gateway Grizzlies to sweep the series and extend their win streak to five in a row.
The Miners are now 23-18 and back in first place in the Frontier League's West Division by percentage points over River City (25-20) although both are technically tied for the top spot.
Gateway fell to 19-28 and has lost five straight.
Romeo Cortina got the scoring started Sunday in the second inning, leading off with a solo homer off Gateway starter J.R. Holloway (0-1) to make it 1-0.
The Miners added on in the next two frames as well, with Joe Dudek lining an RBI single into center field in the third for a 2-0 lead. Harrison Bragg then homered for the second game in a row with Joe Duncan also contributing an RBI single in a two-run fourth inning that made it 4-0.
Duncan singled in another run in the bottom of the sixth to push the lead out to 5-0 to back Rozek (2-0), who allowed no runs on just two hits and four walks in his first seven innings with three strikeouts to stymie the Grizzlies' bats in his second start of the season.
After walking Jhonniel Alvarez and allowing a single to Artemis Kadkhodaian in the eighth, Rozek departed, and Gateway was able to push two runs across to make the score 5-2 and bring the tying run to the plate. But Michael Starcevich got Jeff Cardenas to bounce out to Austin Homan at shortstop.
In the ninth, the Grizzlies again threatened with two infield hits against Starcevich to bring the tying run to the plate, but Shane Mardirosian grounded out to Dudek at first against Kyle Tinius to end the game and give the Miners a perfect 5-0 homestand on the week.
Rozek finished with seven innings of work, allowing just three hits and one earned run to get the victory on the mound, with Tinius notching his third save of the year and second in as many nights. Offensively, Duncan went 2-for-4 with two RBIs while Dudek also had a two-hit night with a run batted in and Homan doubled and scored two runs in the contest.
On Saturday, the Miners got a quality start on the mound from Austin Dubsky, and came back from an early deficit to take the lead and eventually hold off the Grizzlies to win 4-3.
Gateway scored a run on three hits in the first inning against Dubsky (3-1), and then rapped out four singles in a row to start the second inning, taking a 2-0 lead and loading the bases with no one out. But the right-hander bore down, striking out two and inducing a groundout to second base to get out of the jam.
The Miners' offense would reward him immediately, as after Ben Moore was hit by a pitch leading off the bottom of the second inning by Gateway starter Max MacNabb (4-5), Bragg hit a two-run, game-tying homer to left field to knot the score at 2.
The next inning, after Dubsky held the Grizzlies off the scoreboard, Southern Illinois took the lead for good on an RBI double from Nolan Earley at 3-2.
The Miners extended the lead with a run in the fifth inning on a Kyle Davis RBI single. Gateway responded with a run off Dubsky with two outs in the sixth inning, as Blake Brown singled home Shane Mardirosian to make it a one-run game once again.
But Dubsky finished off the frame with the last of his six strikeouts in completing a "quality start" of six innings pitched with three earned runs allowed and just one walk.
Southern Illinois' bullpen held off the Grizzlies from there.
Chris Washington worked around a leadoff single for a scoreless seventh, and Patrick Duester struck out two to nullify a one-out walk in the eighth. Tinius then sent Gateway down in order in the ninth to clinch the series for the Miners.
The series began Friday and the Miners won 6-5 on a walkoff single by Bragg in the bottom of the ninth. The win included Chance Shepard launching a three-run homer to the deepest part of Rent One Park and Duncan also going deep for his first professional home run.
On Thursday, the Miners had the final game of their series against Florence postponed by the severe weather that hit the region. It was the eighth night of the season where game action has been canceled.
The Miners play at Traverse City over the holiday and return home to begin a series against Windy City at Rent One Park on Friday. That will be the final series before the all-star break, with festivities beginning July 10 at River City.