Leathernecks take down Michigan

Leathernecks+take+down+Michigan

Andrew Brown

The Western Illinois baseball team used clutch pitching to take two of three games against the University of Michigan this past weekend. 

Counting the victory against Missouri State, the Leathernecks have won three out of their last four games and improved to 6-14 on the season.

Originally scheduled to play in Ann Arbor, Mich., the games were moved to Adrian College in Adrian, Mich. at Nicolay Field to avoid winter weather conditions. Cold weather is nothing new to the baseball squad, as the temperature at game time was below freezing on Friday morning.

“Friday was cold as ever and I’m proud of my guys,” first year head coach Ryan Brownlee said. “It was 25 degrees at the start of the game Friday. Saturday wasn’t much better either.”

The change of location may have been beneficial for Western, as Michigan was removed from its home field to a stadium that only held 300 people instead of 4,000. 

Because of the change of venue, game one took place Friday morning, with the final two games of the series consolidated as a doubleheader Saturday. Game One of the doubleheader lasted seven innings, with the series finale lasting nine innings. 

The Leathernecks took Game One of the three game series with a score of 5-3 and held the Wolverines scoreless in the final seven innings. 

First baseman Steve Kedroski hit a solo home run to give the Leathernecks an early 1-0 lead. The home run was the third of the year for Western, and Kedroski’s first this season. 

Junior right-hander John White (1-3) threw seven innings, giving up three earned runs on eight hits while earning his first career victory as a Leatherneck. White’s only blemish was in the second inning, as the Wolverine offense collected three runs on five hits. 

However, Michigan’s lead did  not last, as it would only scatter four more hits for the rest of the game. 

Western scored a run in the fourth and fifth to tie the score at three and then take the lead for good in the seventh. 

Brent Turner singled for the Leathernecks and Dan Dispensa reached on a fielding error before Manny Reyes scored both on a two-RBI double in the seventh. Closing pitcher Brian Loconsole picked up the save to seal the victory.

In Game Two, Michigan took an early lead the Leathernecks could not recover from and fell 6-1.

Junior Riley Perry took the loss for Western, giving up a total of six runs, three of which were earned. Michigan starter Evan Hill pitched all seven innings for the Wolverines, only giving up one run on one hit.

John White, a transfer from John Wood Community College, leads the team with 33 innings pitched to go with a 2.45 ERA. 

“It’s definitely my coaches for sure,” White said, describing what has helped him the most in the transition. “They work with me every day and on my mental approach, and that helps me improve on my game.” 

The series finale featured dominant pitching performances backed up by solid defense with the Leathernecks coming out on top with a score of 2-1. 

Tom Constand started Game Three and picked up his first career victory for Western. The sophomore lefty gave up zero runs in 6 1/3 innings pitched. 

Dispensa threw out a Michigan player at home from center field to prevent a Wolverine score in the fourth inning. The Leathernecks would then get on the board with one run in the fifth and seventh innings, both scored by
Zach Burling. 

In a rather odd play, Brent Turner was thrown out at the plate after taking off from third base when the catcher threw the ball over the pitcher to end the top of the seventh inning. 

Western used three relief pitchers to pitch the final 2 1/3 innings, using Alex Doty, Aaron Michel and Loconsole to finish the game. 

“Actually, the games we won, we pitched really well,” Brownlee said. “Loconsole has played really, really good. He’s going to be the best closer in Western’s history. Alex Doty did really good appearing in relief for Constand Saturday and that gave us a chanceto win.”

Loconsole and Michel both threw in two games over the weekend. It was the first time this year that a pitcher has thrown more than once in a series. 

Brownlee stressed the importance of using caution about relievers making multiple appearances early in the year.

“One thing is you got to be careful with their arms,” he said. “This was the first time we’ve had them go out twice in one weekend. We’re at that point now where we’re close to conference play and — if we need to — we’re starting to get at that point where we can use pitchers multiple times.”

Loconsole’s streak of saves continued, as the senior is now 5 for 5 on the year in save opportunities. This ties the senior for first place for most saves in a single season by a Leatherneck pitcher. 

“He’s a really good player who always goes 100 percent,” White added. “He’s definitely a leader on the team that a lot of the younger pitchers look up to.”

The Leathernecks will have the week off before traveling to Chicago to battle University of Illinois at Chicago for a three-game series starting Friday.