MARION — The Southern Illinois Miners can finally unpack their luggage.
The Frontier League season is two weeks old, but going into tonight’s series-opening game with River City the Miners have played just three of 11 games at Rent One Park. Despite their road warrior status Southern Illinois is 7-7.
“To be honest, it’s where I thought we’d be,” said Miners coach Mike Pinto. “I told the coaching staff way back when, ‘If we can finish .500 that first two weeks of the season we’d put ourselves in where we’ve always played well at home. Now, all of a sudden, we have a lot more home games.”
Pinto had the early road trips in mind when he assembled his roster in the offseason.
“We knew this was going to be a rough stretch so we needed to have some experienced guys that could handle the fact that they were going to be on the road every day and have the ability to keep us in this thing through what was a very rough start of the year,” he said.
As could be expected with a 7-7 start, the Miners have been somewhat erratic.
“I think we’ve had some spots of some really good starting pitching,” Pinto said. “We’ve had a couple spots where the pen was really good and a couple spots where they didn’t do what we needed. Offensively, we’re still trying to find our feel. We’ve still struck out too much, but we’ve had some guys get some big hits.
“We’re a lot better team than our 7-7 record is right now. If you would have said to me going to look at your schedule and at the end of it you’ll be two games back … I can make that up pretty easily with the schedule we have now.”
At 7-7, the Miners are in last place in the Western Division. But, they are just two games behind River City, Southern Illinois’ opponent the next three games.
“For me, it’s so early,” Pinto said. “No one has played everybody so you don’t know who is good and who’s not. You don’t know is this team doing really well because they’re playing a team that’s not good, or are they really good. We don’t know any of that.”
The good news for the Miners is that two rookies had outstanding starts to the season.
Through 10 games Anthony Brocato is hitting .424 with a pair of home runs, eight RBI and a .486 OBP. And, Cletis Avery is hitting .400 with a .500 OBP.
The bad news, both are injured.
Brocato tore his hip flexor while running the bases. He has been placed the disabled list while the team awaits the results of an MRI. Avery missed the last five games with a pulled quadriceps muscle. He will be available during the six-game homestand that began Tuesday.
Chase Cunningham, Chase Adkins and Marty Anderson will start the three games against River City. Cunningham, formerly of the Washington Wild Things, is off to a rocky start. He is 0-2 with a 6.11 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting .313 against him.
Adkins has had one start. He’s 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA. But, he’s only thrown 7.1 innings.
Anderson has no record. He has started one game and has a 4.50 ERA.
Schaumburg will be at Rent One Park over the weekend. Schaumburg sits atop the East Division standings with a 10-5 record.