MARION — Chance Shepard came a double away from the cycle in his Southern Illinois Miners debut Friday night.
The catcher from Wilmington, North Carolina, singled in the first, homered in the sixth and tripled in the seventh to help the Miners top Lake Erie 12-4 on Opening Night. A diving stop by Crushers center fielder Dalton Wheat in the fourth prevented Shepard's best shot at a double. He finished 3 for 5 with three RBIs.
Game 2 of the three-game series is set for 7:05 tonight.
Lake Erie scored first in front of an announced crowd of 2,682 fans at Rent One Park behind a leadoff double. Sean Hurley doubled and went to third on Coner Simonetti's single to right. Hurley came home with the first run of the season for the Crushers when Brady Conlan hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
The Miners answered with four runs in the fourth off four hits, three walks and an error. Romeo Cortina drew a one-out walk and scored on Nolan Earley's RBI double. Anthony Critelli and Luis Jean followed with run-scoring singles, and starter Robby Rowland and three relievers made it stand up.
Rowland, a 6-5, 230-pound right-hander, went six strong innings in his first Opening Night start for the Miners. Rowland allowed three runs, all earned, off seven hits. He struck out five and walked one. Lefty Ross Achter, the brother of Loyola women's basketball coach Kate Achter, gave up a run in the seventh, Patrick Duester got through the eighth, and Kyle Tinius pitched the ninth.
Donald Murray (0-1) took the loss for Lake Erie after allowing seven hits and four runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Shepard had hoped to become the first Miner to hit for the cycle since Craig Massey against Evansville in May of 2016.
Earley (3-for-4) and Jean (3-for-5) both added three hits apiece for the Miners.