O'FALLON, Mo. -- The Southern Illinois Miners got a huge performance offensively from center fielder Joe Duncan, as the rookie went 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBIs to spearhead a 10-hit attack in support of Geno Encina's seven-inning start on the mound to give the Miners a 7-3 win over the River City Rascals in the opener of the three-game road series Tuesday night.
River City hit Encina (5-7) hard early, as the first four batters of the game reached base safely with Clint Freeman hitting a two-run home run to right-center field to put the home team up 2-0. But the Miners responded right away -- Luke Bonfield worked a 12-pitch at-bat before singling to left field leading off the second frame, and Kyle Davis doubled down the left field line before Anthony Critelli drove both runners in with a single to tie the game at 2-2.
Three batters later, Duncan cranked the first of his two home runs out to left field off Rascals starter Dalton Roach (1-3), putting the Miners ahead to stay at 4-2. It was Duncan who added on with a solo shot in the fifth inning as well to increase the lead to 5-2, and that gave Encina all he needed on the hill. The right-hander settled down and tossed seven innings of two-run ball on six hits, allowing two walks while striking out four to earn the victory.
Southern Illinois added insurance in the ninth inning on an RBI single by Jake Willsey and yet another RBI hit by Duncan, this one a double to give him four runs driven in on the night and make it 7-2. The Rascals got one back on a solo home run by Zach Lavy leading off the bottom of the ninth, but got no closer as Southern Illinois took the first game of the crucial set in O'Fallon.
Duncan finished 3-for-5 with his double, two homers, two runs scored and four RBIs to set a new career-high. Critelli also went 2-for-3 with a double, two runs scored and two RBIs.
The Miners moved within one game of the second wild card playoff spot in the Frontier League and one-and-a-half games back of the Rascals in the West Division standings with just five games remaining in the regular season.
The Miners will look to clinch the series in the middle game on Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. back at CarShield Field.