Baseball: Miners finish sweep of Slammers
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media June 29, 2012 11:18PM
Three games out of first place for the Joliet Slammers in early June grew to seven games out Friday. Now they have to keep “out of first place” from becoming “out of contention” in the Frontier League.
Schaumburg, Windy City, River City and Gateway are ahead of the Slammers in the Frontier League’s West Division, and only two division champs and two teams with the next-best records make the playoffs.
The Slammers failed to restart their climb in the standings with a storm-shortened 7-4 loss Friday night at Silver Cross Field that completed a three-game sweep by the Southern Illinois Miners.
The game was stopped because of lightning with one out in the top of the seventh before a wind-swept rainstorm moved in, blowing the tarp off the infield and scattering workers trying to re-cover the field.
The Slammers (17-22) fell to five games under .500 for the first time this season.
After facing just four batters in the first inning, Slammers starter Wander Alvino gave up five runs on five hits over the next two innings, the biggest hit a three-run, opposite-field home run by Jason Ganek, the Miners’ No. 8 hitter.
Joliet rallied with two runs in the third and fourth innings to close the gap to 5-4, including RBI doubles by Hector Pellot and David Fox and a sacrifice fly by Kyle Maunus, but the Miners added two runs in the fifth off reliever Dustin Quattrocchi.
A play that epitomizes the season so far for the Slammers came in the bottom of the fifth with two runners on and Southern Illinois leading 7-4. Abel Nieves, the team’s best hitter and the potential tying run, was at the plate when Pellot, who had walked, was picked off first base to end the inning.
Both Nieves and manager Bart Zeller, who was coaching third base, didn’t move for a few seconds after the play, almost in disbelief at what happened.
Next for the Slammers are road games Saturday through Monday against the Rockford RiverHawks, followed by a six-game homestand before the July 9 to 12 All-Star break.
“We’re trying to set the tone for going into the All-Star break on a real positive note,’’ Zeller said.
Statistically, the Slammers have compiled some good numbers in a few categories.
Nieves’ .362 batting average led the team and ranked third in the league entering Friday. He also tops the Slammers in hits, total bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Defensively, Joliet’s .975 fielding percentage is among the league leaders, trailing only the Washington Wild Things.
On the mound, Amalio Diaz’s eight saves is tied for third in the league and opponents are hitting just .158 against him. Reliever Chase Doremus has the team’s lowest ERA, 1.54 over 231/3 innings.