Leathernecks take two of three in Omaha
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OMAHA, Neb. — The Western Illinois baseball team (9-20, 6-6 in Summit League play) improved to 500 in the conference with a series win over the Omaha Mavericks (7- 24, 5-7) this weekend. Western split the first two games of the series and edged Omaha 11-10 in the finale on Sunday.
The Leathernecks opened the series with a dominant performance and inflicted the 10-run mercy rule on the Mavericks. Western used a seven-run sixth inning to highlight a 14-run performance. The Leathernecks took advantage of four hits, three walks and an Omaha error to turn a 5-0 advantage into a full on blowout. Drue Galassi drew one of the walks with the bases loaded and brought home the first run of the inning. After a wild pitch scored another, Cord Church put Western up nine with a single to centerfield.
Chris Tschida followed suite with a two-RBI single and Jonathan Fleek brought home the final run of the inning with a double-play ball. The Leathernecks led 12-0 after the top of the sixth.
The Mavericks came storming back in the bottom half of the inning and made their first push at Western starting pitcher Ian Koch. Koch survived, giving up three earned runs and recording a complete game when the Leathernecks went up 10 in the top of the seventh.
Koch tossed 96 pitches in the afternoon, surrendering seven hits and one walk. The 6-4 sophomore also saved coach Ryan Brownlee a trip to the bullpen in the opener and picked up his second win of the season.
The Leathernecks assisted Koch with an early advantage. Western posted a pair in the second and third innings and added one more in the fourth. Tschida began the offensive attack in the second with a double and came home on Conner Currier’s sacrifice bunt.
Junior Mitch Ellis also delivered in the second with an RBI-single. Ellis led the game with four hits and set a new career-high in the process.
Tschida matched his season- high in hits with three. Tschida and Fleek collected RBI knocks in the fourth to make it 4-0. Ellis came home to make it 5-0 in the fourth after his first career triple.
Omaha threatened in the early part of the game, but could never score off Koch until the sixth.
The Mavericks used three pitchers in the 14-4 decision in Game 1.
Game 2 of the series was a different story. The Leathernecks collected 10 hits but could only muster two runs off Omaha pitching. The Mavericks were limited to just six hits but used two early homeruns to clinch a 4-2 victory.
Western starter Preston Church pitched well through six innings, but the long ball earned him a loss in the end. The first came with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the first inning. Sophomore Grant Suponchick drilled an 0-2 pitch over the leftfield wall to open the scoring.
The second Maverick homer also came with two outs and nobody on. Parker Smejkal singled off Preston Church to keep the bottom of the fourth alive. Senior Marcus Ethen then made Western pay and drilled a 2-0 fastball out of the park to centerfield.
The Leathernecks were unable to score until the top of the sixth. Steve McShane and McGinnis singled to start the inning and Fleek delivered with a one-out single to cut the deficit to two. McShane recorded a career-high three hits on the day.
Omaha stole back the run in the eighth and Western trailed 4-1 with just three outs to work with. The Leathernecks were able to bring the tying run to the plate after Ellis recorded and RBI-single. The junior also recorded three hits on the day.
In the end, Suponchick showed off his versatility and closed out the final two innings on the mound for the Mavericks, earning his save of the season. Omaha split the series with a 4-2 win.
The Leathernecks built a big lead in the series finale but allowed Omaha to fight their way back into the ballgame with a sevenrun sixth. The rally allowed the Mavericks to cut the score to 11-9 after Western seemed poised to run away with it.
Redshirt freshman Ben Sellers began the scoring for the Leathernecks in the top of the second. His double down the leftfield line brought home Deion Thompson to put Western on top.
Tschida brought home a pair in the third with a single and a Maverick fielding error. The Leathernecks would combine for eight more runs over the next two innings and led 11-2 before Omaha’s breakout sixth.
Sellers led Western with three hits and two RBIs on the day. Tshida and McGinnis also recorded two RBIs and a pair of hits each. Javin Drake got the start for the Leathernecks and was having a solid outing until the sixth. He still recorded his second win of the season on the day.
Sam Cottingham-Beard and Pete Minella held onto the win for Western out of the bullpen. Minella recorded 2.2 innings and picked up his first save of the season. The Leathernecks combined for 15 hits.
All told, Western was good for 37 runs against the Mavericks over the weekend series win. They improved to 3-4 on their current eight-game road trip and have a chance to break even with a midweek matchup against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m.
The Leathernecks will return home and open a three-game series with the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (13-13, 6-5) at Alfred D. Boyer Stadium in Macomb on Friday at 3 p.m. Twitter: @campbellatkins4