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Baseball: Evansville Otters top Slammers 5-4 in 11 innings

Updated: July 5, 2014 6:28PM



It probably wasn’t the inspiring clip from the movie “Independence Day,’’ shown on the Silver Cross Field scoreboard before Friday night’s game that got to Joliet’s Chris Epps.

Even so, Epps came through with his first home run of the season, a three-run shot in the third inning, to give the struggling Slammers a 3-1 lead over the Evansville Otters.

But Epps was upstaged by Evansville’s Chris Elder, who homered with two outs in the 11th inning off reliever Brett Zawacki to give the Otters a 5-4 Frontier League victory.

Joliet dropped to a season-worst nine games under .500 at 16-25 while Evansville improved to 25-16. The Slammers stranded 12 baserunners.

A season-high crowd of 4,184 fans saw Evansville score three runs in the top of the ninth off Zawacki — who had a 21-inning scoreless streak blown up — to go ahead 4-3.

Joliet’s Grant DeBruin delivered a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

The Slammers wasted a strong outing from starting pitcher Andrew Busby, who allowed one run and scattered seven hits over eight innings.

Starting with a double play to get out of the fourth inning, Busby retired 14 straight before he yielded to Zawacki.

Busby allowed three straight one-out hits in the third inning — a triple, single and double — but settled down after a double play got him out of the third.

DeBruin (4-for-6) entered the game hitting a team-best .344, eighth in the Frontier League, and singled in his first three at-bats. DeBruin has hit safely in 15 of the past 16 games.

Joliet went into Friday night’s game with the same record as this point last season. The 2013 Slammers went on to finish 38-57.

“Last year was rough, but it’s a different group of guys this year,’’ second-year Slammer DeBruin said. “That was a tough season. Things started going downhill and never really got going again. I don’t think it’s going to be like that this year.’’

“We’ve got to remember it’s still a game,’’ shortstop Max Casper said of the team’s recent struggles. “We’re lucky to still be playing it. We’ve just got to remember that.’’

Rookie right-hander Kody McFarland (1-1, 4.81) is scheduled to start the second game of the series for Joliet at 6:05 p.m. Saturday.

The Otters are used to playing in front of large crowds in Evansville, Indiana. The Otters average 3,293 fans a game, highest in the league.



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