NORMAL — Normal starter Charlie Gillies gave Evansville an opening in the fourth inning only to clamp it shut before Tuesday's opening game could escape.
Two fifth-inning Otters' errors provided a gap the CornBelters stormed through with five unearned runs in an 8-2 Frontier League victory at the Corn Crib.
Evansville launched two sixth-inning solo home runs to win the doubleheader's nightcap, 4-3.
Gillies (3-3) walked three to load the bases with one out and one run scored on a ground out. But the Normal right-hander secured another ground out to wriggle free from the jam with a 3-2 Belters' lead intact.
"He has that little spell. We're trying to figure out why," Normal manager Brooks Carey said. "We really can't find an answer to it. He's going to have to figure it out himself. With the stuff he has, he should be one of the better pitchers in the league."
Gillies allowed two earned runs in five innings, striking out four and walking three.
"When he loses it for a minute, he usually does a pretty good job of getting it back," said catcher Craig Lepre. "Sometimes he tries to do a little too much. When he stays nice and calm and keeps it low, he's tough to hit."
Normal seized a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a run-scoring double from Aaron Dudley and Nolan Meadows' RBI single. Lepre's single in the third knocked in Miguel Torres.
Singles from Meadows and Diego Cedeno and an error loaded the bases for the Belters in the fifth.
Torres' sacrifice fly brought home Meadows and Lepre walked to reload the bases before Otters' first baseman Lance Montano dropped a routine foul pop off the bat of Yeixon Ruiz with two outs.
Ruiz cashed in the second chance with a two-run single and continued to second on the throw in from the outfield. Santiago Chirino made the error smart even more with another two-run single for an 8-2 Normal cushion.
"We hit the ball hard and caught a couple breaks," said Lepre. "You've got to take advantage of opportunities like that."
Francisco Carrillo pitched a scoreless top of the sixth before the game was delayed 1 hour, 48 minutes to repair a tear in the artificial turf mound.
When play resumed, closer Shawn Blackwell retired Evansville in order in the seventh to nail down the win.
"Things happen. Sometimes they are out of my control," Carey said of the unusual stoppage. "I'm just glad we won."
Carrillo, who entered the second game with a 0.57 ERA, surrendered home runs to Christopher Riopedre to tie the score at 3-3 and to Montano to put Evansville ahead.
"He's not a machine," Carey said of Carrillo. "It's going to happen sometimes and it happened tonight. He's been almost perfect all year long."
The Otters scored twice in the second inning and Normal matched it. Justin Fletcher singled and scored on a Torres ground out. Cedeno also came around to score when the throw across the diamond trying to prevent him from advancing to third skipped away.
Yeixon Ruiz's solo homer in the third was only Normal's 10th in 23 home games.
Belters' starter Scott Sebald allowed two unearned runs in five innings. Hasten Freeman, the second of four Otters' pitchers, was the winner. Randy McCurry worked the seventh for his 10th save.
The series concludes Wednesday in a 1:35 p.m. start. Thursday is an off day because of a Toby Keith concert at the Corn Crib.