NORMAL — The Normal CornBelters did plenty of good in their first home series of the Frontier League season.
The problem was Southern Illinois always seemed to respond with something better.
The Miners capped a weekend of topping Normal’s every move Sunday by scoring three ninth-inning runs off Belters’ closer Liam Ohlmann for a 5-3 victory before a Corn Crib crowd of 2,210.
“Sometimes things fall into place for you,” Southern Illinois manager Mike Pinto said. “I’ve watched Liam Ohlmann just dominate in this league. Sometimes you need balls to find holes, and we got lucky with that tonight.”
The Miners (7-2) completed the series sweep in a ninth-inning rally that featured three walks, an RBI double from Will Block and Kenji Sakaguchi’s two-run single through a drawn-in infield. Normal also mishandled two throws.
“When you walk the leadoff hitter in the ninth inning with a one-run lead and make two errors behind him, that’s what happens,” said Normal manager Hal Lanier. “We did not win one ballgame with three games here in our own ballpark. I’m not very happy with that.”
Normal dropped to 4-5 after winning four of six on a season-opening road trip.
“People are going to find out you have to earn your spot and your role on this ballclub,” Lanier said. “I don’t care what you did last year. This is 2011 not 2010. People are going to have to pick it up in that other (locker) room — a lot of them — because I’m not going to watch this.”
The Belters forged ahead 3-2 in the seventh when Gabe DeMarco continued to second on a throwing error, was bunted to third by Alvaro Ramirez and scored on a Frank Martinez sacrifice fly.
Brett Lester allowed two runs in seven innings and Marshall Schuler worked a perfect eighth. But Ohlmann (0-1) could not seal the victory.
Asif Shah walked with two outs in the second for Normal, went to third on a Tyler Keeble double and scored on a passed ball. Eric Suttle reached on a bunt single and came home on Sean Coughlin’s fielder’s choice for the Miners in the third.
In the sixth, Shah ripped his second home run of the season to hand the Belters a 2-1 lead. Block found the left-field berm with the tying homer to lead off the seventh.
“We were able to battle back in a lot of situations. But when we needed that key hit, we weren’t able to get it,” said Shah. “This homestand isn’t a sign of what’s to come with this team. It’s a lot different than what happened last year. We’re going to turn it around.”
Southern Illinois starter Ryan Zink allowed three runs — one earned — in seven innings. Cory Cowsert (3-0) was the winner after pitching the eighth. Erik Draxton retired the Belters in order in the ninth for his third save.