Getting back on track


Joshua Defibuagh

Roman Visintine has been consistent in his role as the leadoff hitter for the Leathernecks in 2016.

Adam Feiner

Heading into its home series with Fort Wayne, the Western Illinois baseball team was hoping to win yet another Summit
League series.

The Leathernecks won two of three games at home in a series against North Dakota State and South Dakota State, as well as a road set at Omaha. Since then, the Leathernecks have fallen on
hard times.

Western lost a tough nonconference matchup at Bradley, a Missouri Valley conference opponent, then came home and dropped two of three versus reigning conference champion, Oral Roberts. They picked up a home victory against St. Ambrose last Wednesday, but couldn’t use the win as momentum. The Fort Wayne Mastodons came into Alfred D. Boyer Stadium this past weekend and swept the Leathernecks in three straight games.

The sweep dropped Western to 7-8 in the Summit League. Their stumble allowed South Dakota State and Omaha to jump ahead of them in the conference standings.

“We’ve been playing pretty good baseball for the most part,” said Leathernecks head coach Ryan Brownlee. “We’re not putting any pressure on our guys. We haven’t even talked about where we’re at.”

A big factor in the Leathernecks’ recent skid was being outplayed in all three facets of the game against IPFW. The Mastodons outscored Western, 28-7, in their series.

“Fastball command is a big thing we need to work on,” Brownlee said of his pitching staff. “It wasn’t what it’s been, and neither was the secondary command.”

And getting the bats going would be helpful as well.

“There’s some things offensively we need to work on too,” he added. “Our timing at the plate wasn’t where it needed to be. We mishit a lot of balls. We expanded the zone, and we can’t do that with the umpires.”

Two big pieces to Western’s lineup are former high school teammates Roman Visintine and Deion Thompson. The Bloomington High School alumni were a combined 6-for-21 against Fort Wayne.

For Thompson, it’s refreshing to be back in the starting lineup. The freshman last started in late February for the Leathernecks. It had been awhile, but he said that he used the time between starts to work on the mental part of the game.

“It feels great being back in the lineup,” Thompson said. “It was a tough time just sitting and watching my teammates. But it allowed me to get better mentally as a player.”

On the other hand, Visintine has been the hottest hitter all season for Western. The leadoff man struggled last season as a redshirt freshman, but has looked much more comfortable at the plate in 2016. He hasn’t changed much though, and he attributes that to his success.

“I’m keeping it simple, not doing anything out of the ordinary,” Visintine said. “I’m seeing the ball a little better with pitch selection. Coach B has had us doing long pepper in practice lately, and that’s helped me focus on barreling balls.”

Western Illinois will travel to SIU-Edwardsville on Wednesday for a nonconference matchup. After the game, they’ll travel 15 hours northwest to Fargo, North Dakota to do battle against Summit League rival, North Dakota State.

Brownlee said that despite a lot of time on a charter bus, he’s excited to get away from the comfort of Alfred D. Boyer Stadium for a little while.

“Sometimes the best thing for a team is getting on the bus and going to a different venue,” Brownlee stated. “I like the Fargo trip. It’s long, but it’ll be nice to be somewhere else for a bit.”