MARION — A sixth-inning stumble proved costly to the Normal CornBelters in a 3-2 loss to the Southern Illinois Miners on Wednesday at Rent One Park.
A pair of Belters' fielding errors and a home run by the Miners' Craig Massoni plated a pair of unearned runs that turned a 2-1 Normal lead into a 3-2 deficit.
The Belters had an opportunity to pull even in the eighth inning but stranded a pair of baserunners before going out in order in the ninth.
Normal took an early 2-0 lead, putting up single runs in the first inning when Yeixon Ruiz scored on Aaron Dudley's infield groundout and again in the second when a Brian Hakes groundout plated Miguel Torres.
Belters starter Shawn Blackwell (5-4) was the hard-luck loser despite a solid eight innings. The recently converted reliever scattered five hits and gave up only one earned run while striking out nine and walking one.
The rubber game of the three-game set is scheduled for Thursday at 7:05 p.m.