Baseball comes out on losing end of three game series

David Koier, Courier Staff

The Western Illinois Leatherneck baseball team opened up Summit League play this weekend with a three-game series against the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State. The Leathernecks came up short in the series, dropping two of the three games to SDSU.

Game one on Saturday was a pitcher’s duel in the first four innings, but in the fifth the Jackrabbits finally broke the silence. In the top of the fifth, SDSU left fielder Nick Smith walked and immediately advanced to third after shortstop Gus Steiger doubled off of Leatherneck pitcher Javin Drake to put two runners in scoring position.

A sacrifice fly by Braeden Brown brought SDSU on the board first 1-0. A two out single by first baseman Josh Falk scored one more for the Jackrabbits, giving them a 2-0 lead. The Leathernecks had a few baserunners in the bottom of the fifth but couldn’t capitalize, keeping them scoreless through five.

SDSU tacked on three more in the top of the seventh, widening their lead to five. Tacking on two more runs in the top of the eighth, it looked like the Jackrabbits were going to shut out the Leathernecks in a dominating fashion. Western wasn’t going down without a fight.

The bottom of the ninth saw the Purple and Gold rally back with a six-hit inning highlighted by doubles from Steve McShane and Nolan Ard and a two-run home run by Deion Thompson. The Leathernecks were unfortunately halted after only scoring six and the Jackrabbits took game one of this Summit League series 7-6.

Game two of Saturday’s doubleheader started with a much faster tempo than its first, game counterpart. A two-run shot down the right field line by Falk in the top of the first, gave the Jackrabbits an early 2-0 lead. SDSU tacked on three more in the next two innings as first baseman Drew Beazley hit a solo homer in the top of the second and Steiger hit a two-run shot of his own in the top of the third, bringing their lead to five.

A leadoff walk by Alex Dorethy followed by a double by CJ Schaeffer put two in scoring position early in the bottom of the fourth for Western. A single down the line by McShane put the Leathernecks on the board as Dorethy crossed the plate to ruin SDSU’s chances for a shutout. Schaeffer scored on a passed ball that also advanced McShane who had stolen second base a pitch earlier.

A groundout by Ard scored McShane, bringing the score within two. The Leathernecks tacked on another run in the bottom of the fifth after a single by Dorethy would score Kevin Raisbeck, who had doubled earlier in the inning. After five full innings the Jackrabbits still lead 5-4. McShane crossed the plate once more to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth after Logan Holtz of SDSU couldn’t play a ball off the bat of Justin Fitzpatrick.

A sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth by Luke Ira scored Brown, giving SDSU the lead once more. McShane scored once more in the bottom of the eighth off of a Drue Galassi double, sending the game into the ninth all tied up.

Two singles and an intentional walk loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth for Schaeffer, a player who had two winning hits already this season. With one swing of the bat, Schaeffer cleared the bases and walked off the game for the Leathernecks 10-6, with a four-run grand slam home run.

Head coach Ryan Brownlee told after the game that he was expecting these games to be competitive with SDSU.

“In our league, everyone is just about the same and all these games are going to be close. I give our guys credit after bouncing back after the first game. We didn’t play poorly, we just didn’t play good enough to win.” Brownlee said.

The Leathernecks would go on to drop game three on Sunday 7-4. Game three was highlighted by two home runs by Galassi; a three-run shot in the fifth and a solo homer in the seventh. This series loss brings the Purple and Gold’s overall season record to 5-12 and starts off their Summit League play with a 1-2 record in conference.

The Leathernecks start their conference this Friday, when the North Dakota State Bison travel to Macomb this weekend. Game one on Friday starts at 3 p.m. at Alfred D. Boyer Stadium.

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