TRAVERSE CITY — The story of the first two games of the Beach Bums’ series against Southern Illinois has been runners left on base.
Specifically, those the Miners have stranded.
One night after Southern Illinois (39-32) left 10 runners on, another eight were stranded on the basepaths as Traverse City took a 6-1 victory on Thursday at Wuerfel Park.
Traverse City pitchers were able to buckle down when they had to, with the exception of one meaningless run in the fourth inning — the only one Southern Illinois has plated in the two games.
“That is the story right now,” said Southern Illinois manager Mike Pinto. “We’re leaving a small Italian village on the basepaths. You’re not going to win many games doing that.”
Starter Johnny Omahen (6-7) was able to keep the Miners in check over six innings, allowing four hits, one run, while walking three and striking out three. Burny Mitchem and Chris Squires came out of the bullpen and gave up only one hit and one walk in three innings of work. The most important inning for Omahen was the fourth when he only gave up the one run despite Southern Illinois having the bases loaded with one out. Omahen got a force play at second on a fielder’s choice by Cannon Lester that scored the Miners’ lone run, then got Phil Butler to line out to third.
“We’ve had good starts from him and (Scott) Dunn,” said Traverse City third baseman Jose Vargas. “Lately he’s been walking some guys and getting into a little bit of trouble. He just finds a way to get that ground ball and get out of those sticky situations. Those two outings have definitely been huge for us.”
The Beach Bums (42-29) did all their damage on offense in two innings, scoring five runs in the third and adding an insurance run in the fourth. Carlo Testa had a two-run single and Vargas slugged an RBI single, but the Beach Bums also were aided by a tough outing from Southern Illinois ace Blake Nation, who hit a batter and walked two in that inning. One walk, to Chase Burch, came with the bases loaded and brought in the second of the five runs. Sean Gusrang had an RBI groundout as well. Nation, who came in with an 8-1 record, only lasted four innings, giving up six hits, six runs, four walks and two strikeouts.
“Certainly uncharacteristic of what he’s done for us all year,” said Pinto. “But when you’re in big games you can’t give up a five-spot like that. That’s a big bite.”
Traverse City’s other run came after Ryan Still doubled and Matt Howard singled him home.
Besides contributing an RBI single, Vargas, who was making his first appearance since July 31 while recovering from a strained hamstring, made a spectacular sliding catch right in front of the Beach Bums’ dugout. It was one of three sliding catches Traverse City fielders made in the game in a solid defensive performance.
“I knew it was going to be close,” Vargas said. “I just slid and was able to catch the ball. I’ve made that play before a couple of times the last few years. I’m kind of familiar with the park. Right before I started to slide I heard Banger (Beach Bums manager Gregg Lanbehn) and all the coaches saying, ‘be careful, be careful’ so I knew when it was time to slide.
“It felt great getting back in there, especially we’ve had a little rough patch with Lake Erie, getting swept. Today contributing a little bit was good.”
To close out the series Traverse City will send out Jacob Clem (5-6) to go against Southern Illinois’ Preston Vancil (7-2).