SAUGET -- The Southern Illinois Miners didn't make the postseason but they did finish the season with a winning record after winning two of their last four games.
The Miners, who finished with a 48-47 record, won at River City on Thursday and again at Gateway on Friday to keep their playoff hopes alive going into Saturday's penultimate game, but a win by the Evansville Otters on Saturday dashed those hopes just before the Miners lost them anyway with a wild five-hour 12-11 loss in 12 innings to the Grizzlies.
The winning season was the 11th for the Miners in their 12 seasons, with the lone exception coming last summer.
Southern Illinois dropped its 2018 season finale on Sunday night to the Grizzlies by a score of 3-2 despite a complete game effort from starter Geno Encina, his third such game of the year.
Gateway scored all of its runs with two outs in the contest, and they grabbed a 1-0 lead on an RBI infield single in the second inning from Mitch Piatnik. After the Miners responded with a run of their own in the fourth on a single by Romeo Cortina, a double by Nolan Earley and an RBI groundout by Kyle Davis, Gateway got two more runs in the bottom of the frame thanks to RBI hits by Brent Sakurai and Trae Santos.
Down 3-1 in the sixth inning, Chance Shepard brought Southern Illinois within a run on a deep solo home run to left field, his team-leading 23rd of the season, but the Miners could not get closer against Gateway starter Max MacNabb (9-9), who struck out 10 batters over eight innings of work to earn the win.
Encina (5-8) went the distance in defeat, scattering 10 hits across eight innings of work along with two walks and eight strikeouts.
On Saturday night, the Miners were down to their last strike before Nolan Earley hit a three-run, two-out homer in the ninth inning to tie the game but the Grizzlies ultimately won just before midnight on a wild pitch.
Blake Brown hit his 17th and 18th home runs for the Grizzlies.
On Friday, the Miners broke a 4-4 tie in the top of the eighth, scoring two runs to take the lead for good in winning 6-4 to clinch the winning season. Earley hit a three-run bomb in that game, as well.
On Thursday, the Miners scored six runs in the top of the sixth inning at CarShield Field to come back from a one-run deficit and surge ahead of the River City Rascals en route to an 8-5 victory, clinching the series win. Earley hit a solo homer and Max Dutto hit a two-run double in the victory.
River City clinched the Frontier League's West Division title with a 9-0 win over Florence on Sunday night. The Rascals will be joined in the playoffs by East Division winner Washington and wild-card teams Evansville and Joliet.