MARION — The Southern Illinois Miners were in mid-season form Tuesday when they knocked off the Evansville Otters 8-1 in the final exhibition game of the season. The Frontier League’s regular season begins Friday night with the Miners playing at Evansville.
Tuesday, the Miners bashed out 10 hits, including a pair of two-run homers by Chris Iriart and Andrew Cosgrove. Conversely, five Miners pitchers limited Evansville to just six hits. The Otters didn’t get their first hit until Jack Meggs doubled with one out in the fifth.
“To be honest, we’ve played really well during spring training,” said Miners manager Mike Pinto. “We had one day at Gateway we didn’t hit. We couldn’t see. They couldn’t see. There is no backdrop. Other than that, we’ve really hit the ball well and consistently. Overall, we’ve made plays you’re supposed to.”
Patrick Duester got the start for the Miners. He pitched a pair of hitless innings, although he walked three. Cody Thompson followed with three strong innings, giving up a pair of back-to-back doubles in the fifth for Evansville’s only run.
Andrew Bernstein, Heath Renz and Gabe Genter blanked the Otters the rest of the way. The Miners’ quintet combined for 10 strikeouts and limited Evansville to just two extra base hits.
“We’ve really been happy with the guys,” Pinto said. “I thought we played really clean. The same way over the weekend. I thought we really played clean. That’s certainly a good sign for the way we think this summer can be.”
The Miners had one error in the game. That came in the second when Evansville’s Dakota Phillips hit a chopper between the mound and first base. Duester gloved the ball and tried to flip it to first base. However, the toss handcuffed first baseman Trey Ganns, allowing Phillips to reach first.
Duester walked the next two hitters to load the bases, but escaped harm by getting Meggs on a towering fly ball on the infield.
The Miners jumped on top in the first inning when Ganns drilled a single through the middle. He scored easily on Alex Santan’s triple into the gap in left center. Santana trotted home a few pitches later on a wild pitch.
And, when the Otters put on a run on the board in the fifth, the Miners retaliated quickly.
After Kyle Davis drew a two-out walk, Cosgrove hit a tee shot over the left field fence for a 4-1 lead. Southern Illinois tacked on another run when Joe Duncan tripled into the left field corner and scored on a passed ball.
The Miners finished off the scoring in the sixth on Stephen Lohr’s lead off single and Iriart’s long home run to left.
“Iriart’s, I think that’s the third home run of the spring,” Pinto said. “I’m glad that’s on my side now. We sprayed the ball all (over) the ballpark. We hit some gaps. Guys ran the bases well. Overall, the guys have played really well.”
Of the Miners 10 hits, six were for extra bases. And, the production came from up and down the lineup. Gianfranco Wawoe was the only Miner with more than one hit.