Leathernecks baseball surprises Iowa with late comeback but come up short in 8-7 loss

Taylor Jordan, Courier Staff

IOWA CITY, IOWA — For the second time in as many games, the Western Illinois baseball team fell one run short of a comeback against Iowa.

The Leathernecks took on the Hawkeyes on Wednesday at Duane Banks Field, and loaded the bases in the ninth inning to get in two runs but that wasn’t enough as the final decision was 8-7.

“We talked about staying pitch to pitch. When we do that were really good, but again we’ve got to eliminate free bases, and our two-strike approach needs to get better,” said head coach Ryan Brownlee. “Those are the two phases of the game that when we’ve done well, we’ve been on the right side of the scoreboard.

“We stayed with it and took advantage of most of our opportunities to put pressure on them. There’s always the small things, but we’re starting to show flashes offensively of what I thought we would be. The guys are starting to come out of it; it’s taken some a while, but better late than never.”

CJ Schaeffer Jr. slammed the ball in right-center and got his second career triple, along with bringing in his second RBI of the evening. The senior catcher took advantage of base running by Kevin Raisbeck in the first inning (rounding the bases on a single, failed pickoff and wild pitch) and an RBI single provided the visitors their early lead.

Iowa took control of the game in the middle innings, scoring seven runs on seven hits from the fourth to the sixth inning, while retiring 10 straight Leatherneck batters in that span.

Western’s 3-1 edge flew into a 5-3 shortage in the next inning after a fielding error and four hits, but the comeback began in the seventh. In its 8-7 setback at North Dakota State, the team scored five unanswered down the stretch and Wednesday they scored four.

Javin Drake pitched a no-decision in his 12th start of the season, going 2.0 innings for two hits and a run. Seven stood on the mound for Western, and Connor Rektorkski was No. 7. He capped the game in his third attendance on the year and logged a groundout and strikeout before Schaeffer ended things by catching a runner stealing.

Iowa got the job done, but were tested in the bottom of the ninth, owning an 8-5 lead. In a save situation for Hawkeye redshirt junior and closer Grant Leonard, Western Illinois loaded the bases with no outs on two singles and a hit batsman. The Leathernecks pushed across two runs via sacrifice fly and a single, but Leonard escaped converting his 11th save in as many chances.

Looking for a comeback, the Leathernecks are set to face off against Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Okla. this weekend. The series will begin on Friday at 6 p.m. following 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

The first series against Oral Roberts resulted in a Leatherneck sweep. Prior to this season’s set against Wstern, the Golden Eagles have never been swept in league play.

Catch the Purple and Gold start off the series at J.L. Johnson Stadium today at 6 p.m.