Baseball falls in three game series on the road

David Koier, Courier Staff

MURRAY, Ky. — The Western Illinois University Leathernecks baseball team was swept this weekend by the Murray State University Racers. The winless Leathernecks lost both games of a doubleheader this past Sunday and finished off the series with a walk-off loss, losing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

The Racers started the first game on Sunday’s doubleheader with a 4-0 lead off of four hits. Junior first baseman Bailey Montgomery started off the top of the second with a grounder to third base. It wasn’t long until the Leathernecks were on the board as junior shortstop Deion Thompson homered to left field.

After a couple runs in the second and fourth for the Racers, the Leathernecks finally responded again in the top of the fifth. With the leadoff man flying out to center, second baseman Jonathan Fleek hit a solid triple to right center field. After Murray State pitcher Trevor McMurray walked Leatherneck center fielder Drue Galassi, McMurray let up a single to Thompson scoring Fleek.

The Leathernecks scored their fifth and final run of the game in the top of the eighth. By then it was too late. The Leathernecks lost the first game of the series 11-4 with the win going to McMurray and the loss awarded to Leatherneck junior Ian Koch.

After a brief break, it was on to game two of the doubleheader. The Racers took a little longer this game to score but still were on the board first off of a sacrifice fly by sophomore left fielder Ryan Perkins.

The Leathernecks were quick to respond. With two outs, Galassi was walked and eventually advanced to second base on a wild pitch. He then scored on a single by Thompson who advanced to second on the throw. After a pitching change by the Racers, the scoring continued as Montgomery singled up the middle scoring Thompson.

The Racers didn’t like being down, so they decided to tie it up with a leadoff home run by senior designated hitter Caleb Hicks. A sacrifice fly later in the inning caused the Racers to take the lead at the end of the sixth 3-2.

The Racers added two more runs to their total in the bottom of the seventh, increasing their lead to 5-2. The Leathernecks were again quick to respond in the top of the eighth. Fleek scored off of a Galassi triple after he singled early in the inning. Galassi scored off of a fielder’s choice adding a second run to the Purple and Gold’s inning total, bringing the score back within one run.

Unfortunately, the Necks could not capitalize off of their eighth inning momentum and were held to only one hit in the ninth. The Racers were able to score their second win of the day over Western 5-4. The win was awarded to Murray State sophomore Alec Whaley and the loss went to Leatherneck senior Ryan Dunne.

Monday’s game was a pitching battle that kept going back and forth between the two teams. Leatherneck head coach Ryan Brownlee was in awe of the game that he and his team had just been a part of.

“We squeezed every ounce out of the game today,” Brownlee said. “I am going to frame the box score because I have never been part of a game where 12 pitchers were used. We even lost the DH at the end to go to more of a defensive unit.”

Both teams scored a single run in the second inning. Murray State scored a second run in the bottom of the fourth, taking the lead 2-1. The Leathernecks took their second lead of the day in the fifth inning as both designated hitter Dillion Sears and left fielder Steve McShane scored changing the score to 3-2. The Leathernecks kept the lead until the bottom of the ninth inning. After a single early in the inning, junior Pete Minella came in to pitch and walked the bases loaded. With no outs in the inning, it looked as if Western was destined to lose. Destiny took its course and Racer infielder Grant Wood doubled to center field, scoring the two runs that would end the game in walk-off fashion. The Leathernecks lost the game 3-2 with Minella earning the loss.

Although they lost all three games over the weekend, Brownlee was able to see the silver lining.

“Our effort and energy today were closer to where it needs to be, but still not close to where we are going to be and that is an exciting thing. A game like that is a reminder of why you play.” Brownlee said.

The Purple and Gold may have had a rough weekend, but they have nowhere to go but up as the season progresses. This sweep adds to Western’s winless season, causing their record to fall to 0-6. The Purple and Gold face off against the University of Evansville Purple Aces this weekend on the road.

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