MARION — In the bottom of the second inning Friday night, the Miners might have been a hit away from blowing open their game with Gateway.
Stephen Lohr lashed a shot just inside third base that Connor Owings snared, converting it into an inning-ending 5-3 double play that ended a three-run rally.
The game went straight downhill from there for Southern Illinois. Gifting the Grizzlies a collection of walks, hit batters and a ghastly error, the Miners suffered a 7-3 loss in front of a season-high crowd of 5,862 at Rent One Park.
“That was a great play by their third baseman,” Southern Illinois manager Mike Pinto said. “It changed the momentum.”
In losing for the seventh time in 10 games, the Miners (26-22) burped up 10 free passes and beaned a pair of hitters. Yet the case can be made that starter Marty Anderson (3-1) probably should have made it through five innings and 98 pitches with only one run — Andrew Daniel’s solo shot with two outs in the first.
Anderson was walking off the mound when Matt Brown popped up an 0-2 pitch with two on and two outs in the fifth. Second baseman Cletis Avery appeared to settle under it, but then started backing up as the ball descended.
The ball popped off Avery’s glove and hit the turf, an error that gave Gateway (20-29) a fourth out. It also sent Anderson out of the game in favor of reliever Benjamin Dum, who promptly gave up a two-run triple to Luis Roman that put the Grizzlies ahead.
“The misplayed ball led to three runs,” Pinto lamented. “But you have to throw strikes, too. We just ask our pitchers to give us a chance. The walks really hurt us.”
It was the first of two three-run, one-hit rallies that gave Gateway control. The second occurred in the seventh, when reliever Jake Godfrey served up Daniel’s second solo homer before walking the bases loaded.
Dustin Woodcock and Zak Taylor greeted Jordan Brink with sacrifice flies that increased the lead to four runs, a margin which proved insurmountable for a team that shut down offensively after Lohr was robbed of a potential extra-base hit.
Beginning with that play, Chris Carden (4-1) retired the last 16 hitters he faced, the outs getting softer and softer. Carden walked four of the first 11 batters and needed 46 pitches to make it through two innings. He required just 53 pitches to sail through the next five frames.
“We let their starter settle in,” Pinto said of Carden.
Lohr’s two-out walk against reliever Dakota Smith in the eighth constituted the first baserunner for Southern Illinois since Anthony Jimenez’s walk in the second. Gianfranco Wawoe drew a free pass to put two on, but Jamey Smart bounced into a fielder’s choice to end that threat.
The Miners collected only two hits off four pitchers. One was Joe Duncan’s two-run single to left-center in the second that gave them a 3-1 lead. The other was Kyle Davis’ leadoff single in the ninth.
Anderson permitted four hits and four runs, one earned, in 4 2/3 innings. He fanned six but walked four and plunked two.
Southern Illinois will try to bounce back at 6:05 p.m. Saturday night in the middle game of the series. The Miners will welcome back righty Ryan McAuliffe (1-0, 0.53), who has been idle since June 11 with an injury and will be on a pitch count. Ian Kahaloa (0-2, 4.70) takes the mound for the Grizzlies.