A six-game road trip ended on a winning note as the Normal CornBelters, presented by Illinois Corn Farmers, knocked off the Southern Illinois Miners 11-3 on Friday night at Rent One Park in Marion, Illinois. The win gave the CornBelters their second series victory over the Miners, and closed out the road trip with a 3-3 mark.
The CornBelters continued the trend of early offense. Alvaro Ramirez and Brandon Newton led of the game with singles and moved up to second and third. Miners starter B.J. Dail intentionally walked Steve Alexander to load the bases, but then walked Asif Shah and Mike Mobbs to give the Belters a 2-0 lead. The Miners avoided further damage in the frame when a Daniel Cox line drive up the middle was caught by Will Block, who was able to double off Shah.
The Miners also took advantage in the bottom of the first. Justin Randall led off with a walk followed by a one-out single by Ken Gregory. With two outs, a ground ball up the middle was stabbed by Brandon Newton, but the Belters second baseman threw wide to first to allow both Miners on the basepaths to score to tie the game at 2-2.
The CornBelters exploded in the fourth, scoring six runs on six hits and batting ten men. Tyler Keeble led off with a walk and went to third on a double by Andrew Barbaro. Keeble scored on a base hit up the middle by Alvaro Ramirez to give the Belters a 3-2 lead. A walk to Brandon Newton loaded the bases and chased Miners starter B.J. Dail, but Frank Martinez greeted reliever Darren Tew with a single to left to score Barbaro and Ramirez for a 5-2 lead. Steve Alexander singled to again load the bases. Asif Shah then lined a base hit to center to score Newton, although Martinez was thrown out at the plate. The Belters weren't finished, as a Mike Mobbs ground ball resulted in the second out but scored Alexander, then Mobbs came home on a Daniel Cox double off the base of the left-field wall to complete the scoring and give Normal an 8-2 lead.
Southern Illinois put up their third unearned run in the sixth as Justin Randall led off with a double off the right field wall, then scored when the relay throw went into the CornBelters dugout to cut the Belters lead to 8-3.
Normal cushioned the lead to 10-3 in the eighth on the eighth home run of the year by Daniel Cox, which also scored Mike Mobbs, who had singled with two outs.
Tyler McNeely put an exclamation point on the victory, as he hit a booming solo home run to left in the ninth to complete the scoring.
Donald Furrow (1-1) picked up the win. B.J. Dail (1-4) took the loss. Normal's Bobby Pritchett took a no-decision, going four innings in his second appearance since returning from the disabled list and his first start since July 5, giving up three hits and two unearned runs while walking one and striking out one. Every CornBelter in the lineup had at least one hit, with Newton and Cox each registering three hits. Cox drove in three runs.
The CornBelters return to the Corn Crib for a brief three-game homestand against the Gateway Grizzlies. Matt Mossey (1-0, 4.50) takes the ball for the CornBelters and Brad Stone (0-4, 7.01) is on the mound for the Grizzlies in a matchup of right-handers. It's a State Farm Starstruck Saturday with actress Dawn Wells, best known as Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island, making a special appearance. First pitch is at 7 p..m., and the game can be heard on WJBC (AM 1230, FM 93.7) and WJBC.com.
Transaction note: Prior to Friday's game, the CornBelters traded catcher Jeff Dunbar to the Florence Freedom for a player to be named. Dunbar appeared in 49 games with Normal with a .209 batting average, three home runs and 17 RBI.