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Baseball: Slammers score four in ninth to defeat Southern Illlinois Miners 5-4

Updated: June 23, 2014 1:08PM



Four Joliet Slammers were hit by pitches in the bottom of the ninth, fueling a game-winning rally rather than a bench-clearing brawl.

The Slammers overcame a ninth-inning deficit for the second straight day and swept the season-opening series against Southern Illinois with a 5-4 win Sunday afternoon at Silver Cross Field.

“Definitely not the opportune time in the game for a bench-clearer,’’ said designated hitter Russell Moldenhauer, one of four Slammers who was plunked.

“Guys were definitely up on the plate, trying to get baserunners, and it ended up paying off,’’ said Adam Giacalone, who delivered a two-run single to make it 4-all.

With Joliet behind 4-1 in the ninth, Southern Illinois reliever Matt Miller hit Tre-Von Johnson and Max Casper. Marquis Riley stroked a one-out base hit to score Johnson before Moldenhauer was hit by the sidearm-throwing Miller.

Giacalone’s single tied the game and Grant DeBruin (2-for-4) was hit to reload the bases. Stew Brase replaced Miller on the mound to face CJ Epperson (2-for-4, run, RBI), whose sacrifice fly was the game-winner for a crowd of 1,754.

“I was just trying to stay focused, stay calm, looking for a pitch up in the zone that I could get in the outfield preferably,’’ Epperson said. “Hit it deep enough that I could get Billy (Miller) in.’’

“I was definitely going the whole way, just make sure you don’t leave early,’’ said Miller, who ran for Moldenhauer.

Miller, a former Trinity Christian player, leaped up from home plate and pumped his fist in celebration as the Slammers mobbed Epperson near first base.

Joliet trailed until the eighth inning in the season opener and won all three games by a run, including 5-4 Friday and 3-2 Saturday.

“A win’s a win, and we’ll take any kind of win we can get, but we need to get things going a little quicker because we’re getting a little stressed out waiting until the last second,’’ Giacalone said with a smile. “But it was another fun one.’’

“I wish we’d make it a little easier on ourselves,’’ Joliet manager Jeff Isom said with a laugh. “There was definitely no ill will. We’ll try to get on any way we can. That was something, cardiac kids out there.’’

Ryan Connolly (21/3 innings, 3 strikeouts) and winner Sam Moore (2 innings, 3 strikeouts) provided solid relief outings after starting pitcher Matt Dillon (6 hits, 4 runs, 4 strikeouts) was lifted in the fifth.

“We feel comfortable with the bullpen arms we have,’’ Isom said. “Connolly did an outstanding job, and Sam Moore for his first outing, excellent as well.’’

Joliet (3-0) plays a road series starting Tuesday with the Gateway Grizzlies. The Slammers are home Friday through Sunday against the Normal CornBelters.

“Coming from behind three games is a nice confidence booster,’’ Moldenhauer said. “Hopefully, we can start getting out ahead and not having to fight our way back.

“But it’s nice to know we have guys mentally strong enough to take quality at-bats down three runs in the ninth inning.’’



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