Baseball begins to heat up with back-to-back Summit League sweeps

Christopher Bean, Assistant Sports Editor

MACOMB, Ill. — Western Illinois University men’s baseball team hosted a three game series against the Fort Wayne Mastodons. The Leathernecks entered the weekend series with an 11-19 record and 5-7 in conference play and only two games out of second place. Meanwhile, the Mastodons were 5-25 and 0-12 in The Summit League.

The series opener started on Friday, and Jace Warkentien got it started for the Purple and Gold. After a scoreless first, Warkentien gave up a solo shot with one out in the second to Robert Young III giving them an early 1-0 lead. However, it did not take long for the Necks to respond. After going three-up and three-down in the first two innings, they finally got the bats going in third, getting five hits and scoring four runs in the third to take a 4-1 lead.

The Mastodons got one back in the top of the fourth, when Andrew Lawvere crossed the plate on an error from Dillon Sears. Again, Western didn’t take take long to answer. The Necks scored seven runs on six hits, three of them coming off the bat from Diego Munoz. The score remained 11-2, until Aaron Chapman tripled down the left field line, scoring Young. Chapman scored on a ground out to score the fourth and final run of the day for the visitors.

Warkentien got his last two outs in the eighth, and Jordan Cheek secured the last out of the inning with runners on the corners. Warkentien picked up his second win of the year after going 7 2/3 on six hits and three earned runs. In the bottom of the eighth, Grant Hannant singled to score Trenton Bauer. The next at bat, Steve McShane, had runners on second and third and singled to complete the 10-run mercy rule. The 14-4 scoreline was Western’s second mercy win this year.

On Saturday, the two teams would play a doubleheader because of inclement weather on Sunday. The first game of the doubleheader was the closest game of the series. Western edged the Mastodon’s 4-2. Starter Javin Drake was on his A game right out of the gate, striking out seven in the first three innings. He finished with 10 K’s and only gave up six hits and one walk in seven scoreless innings, picking up his fourth win this year.

The Necks scored two runs in the second after an error by the pitcher Chase Phelps scored CJ Schaeffer Jr. Two batters later, Phelps walked Kevin Raisbeck with the bases loaded, scoring Deion Thompson.

Western added to their 2-0 lead in the seventh after back-to-back RBI singles from Munoz and Raisbeck to give Western a 4-0 lead after seven. However, Fort Wayne would not go away scoring two runs in the eighth, but Justin Foy came in to relieve Kyle Rosenfeld, and successfully completed the four-out save for his first save of the year.

In the second game of the doubleheader and last game of the series it was all Leathernecks from start to finish. Jack Carberry started the game, and for the second game in-a-row he shutout the Mastodon’s offense. Carberry won his fifth game after six scoreless innings, one walk, three walks and six K’s. Western’s offense took care of the rest after a five RBI day from Drue Galassi. In the bottom of the seventh, McShane hit his second walk-off hit in as many days with another two-run RBI single scoring Bauer and Galassi. They won 10-0 in seven innings completing the series sweep.

The Purple and Gold improved to 14-19, and 8-7 in The Summit League. They moved to fifth to third and are only one game behind South Dakota State for second. Western will travel to SDSU for a three-game series this weekend. This will begin a stretch of 14 road games in the last 19 games of the year. If they can survive this stretch, look out for a deep postseason run from the Leathernecks.