By JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — Evidently, you don't take a hit away from Javier Herrera.
The Southern Illinois center fielder gets mad.
Herrera — who had a first-inning at-bat ruled a hit, and then later changed to an error — blasted a solo home run in the fourth inning Wednesday at Wuerfel Park that proved to be all that pitcher David Harden would need as Southern Illinois won the opening game of a best-of-five playoff series 1-0.
"They were giving him a hard time," Harden said of his teammates in the dugout. "So they saw it, and he did what he did, didn't he?"
Herrera blasted a solo shot to lead off the fourth that landed next to the flag pole. It was the first hit off TC starter Reid Kelly — until Herrera's first-inning at-bat was eventually changed for a second time, back to a single. It also ended up as the only offense of the entire night, as Kelly and Harden engaged in a pitcher's duel for seven-plus innings.
Harden struck out five and surrendered seven hits and no walks in eight frames, while Kelly gave up just four hits and one walk in 7.1 innings, striking out seven.
"Reid is always going to give you his best," TC right fielder Sean Gusrang said. "He's our go-to guys. He's a great pitcher and throws a lot of strikes. He threw a helluva game and kept them off balance and only gave up one run. That's all you can ask from your starter. With our offense, you figure we'll score more than one, but tonight just wasn't our night."
The Beach Bums had eight hits — half of those by Kyle Colligan — to only four by Southern Illinois.
"Colligan was 4 for 4 with three doubles, but we just couldn't get that timely hit we needed," Gusrang said. "We had a bunch of hits — eight or nine — but we couldn't get that timely one when guys were in scoring position."
Traverse City — which had come in with a 25-7 mark in series-opening games, 37-14 at home and 11-3 on Wednesdays this campaign — dropped to 9-22 this season when scoring three or fewer runs.
The Beach Bums threatened in the seventh, as Colligan doubled up the third base line and Gusrang singled with one out. Colligan tried to come home on Marcus Nidiffer's hit to third, and was gunned down at the plate by Carlos Mendez.
The Miners almost added to their lead in the eighth, as Chris Anderson led off with a double and was bunted over to third, ending Kelly's night. Nick Capito came on to strike out Cory Harrilchak and get Jake Kaase to pop up to end the inning.
Matt Miller came on for the ninth, striking out two in a 1-2-3 inning to keep the Bums only a run down going into their last at-bat.
Chase Burch tagged a 2-2 pitch to straight-away center, but Alvaro Ramirez was able to track it down at the warning track.
The previous inning, Still belted one that was a no-doubter, but it curled around the foul pole and landed behind the Miners' bullpen.
"I was waving that thing foul," Harden said. "I knew it was over the wall as soon as he hit it. Thank goodness it kept going."
Colligan had his fourth hit of the game in the ninth, doubling with two outs. Gusrang worked a full count, before striking out looking.
"I thought I should have been protecting there," Gusrang said. "But he threw a little back door slider there that he hadn't thrown all at-bat. I thought he was going to come hard with his best — which is his fastball. It caught me off-side a bit. I thought it was outside a bit. Perry (Costello) is a good umpire. I should have been protecting. That's on me."
In the third, Still and Heere had back-to-back singles, with league MVP Jose Vargas up to bat, but Harden coaxed a double play ball out of the 100-RBI third baseman.
"My heart was beating a little faster than normal," Harden said.
Jacob Clem (7-4, 3.09) takes the mound for Traverse City in tonight's Game 2, opposed by the Miners' Daniel Calhoun (7-4, 2.52).