Jackrabbits fall in series opener, 4-3
Western Illinois scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning while South Dakota State failed to cash in on numerous scoring opportunities as the Fighting Leathernecks opened a four-game Summit League baseball series with a 4-3 victory Friday afternoon at Erv Huether Field.
With the win, league-leading Western Illinois improved to 18-24 overall and 10-7 in The Summit League. SDSU dropped to 23-24 overall, 7-8 in league play.
The Fighting Leathernecks got to a quick 2-0 lead as three of their first four batters reached base. Zack Burling led off with a base hit and moved to second when Neil DeCook was hit by a pitch. Tanner Glore then drove in both runners with a double down the left-field line.
After stranding two runners on base in both the second and third innings, the Jackrabbits cracked the scoring column in the home half of the fifth. Scott Splett reached on an error and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Johnson. However, SDSU left the bases loaded.
Glore, who was 3-for-4, hit his second double of the game to lead off the seventh inning and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Brent Turner to push the Fighting Leatherneck lead back to two runs at 3-1.
SDSU responded, however, tying the game with two runs in the home half of the inning. Zach Coppola doubled for his third hit of the game and scored two batters later on Johnson’s single to right-center field. Eric Danforth then stepped to the plate and delivered a game-tying double to right center. After pinch-hitter Paul Jacobson was hit by a pitch to load the bases, the Jackrabbits appeared on the verge of taking the lead, but WIU reliever Nick Milligan retired the next two hitters on a foul popout and strikeout to end the inning.
Travis Stafford started the game-winning rally for Western in the eighth with a single through the left side against Jackrabbit starter Adam Bray. Stafford moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Burling and took third on a single by Jameson Henning, who extended his hitting streak to 13 games. DeCook then came through with a sacrifice fly to center to score Stafford.
The Jackrabbits again threatened in the bottom of the eighth as Cody Sharrow and Scott Splett drew back-to-back walks to lead off the inning. Once again SDSU came up empty as closer Tyler Owings retired the next three hitters.
SDSU stranded 13 men on base for the game as three WIU pitchers combined to walk nine batters and hit two more to go along with 11 strikeouts.
Fighting Leatherneck starter Tyler Willman worked the first five innings, allowing one run on three hits – all infield singles. Willman struck out six and walked five.
For the Jackrabbits, Bray took the loss after allowing all four runs in 7 2/3 innings. The junior right-hander surrendered 10 hits and struck out five, but did not walk a batter.
The two teams are scheduled to play a doubleheader Saturday starting at 1 p.m.
WESTERN ILLINOIS 4, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE 3
WIU 200 000 110 4-11-1
SDSU 000 010 200 3-6-0
WIU: Tyler Willman, Nick Milligan (6), Tyler Owings (8) and Adam McGinnis. SDSU: Adam Bray, J.D. Moore (8) and Reid Clary.
W-Milligan (4-0). L-Bray (5-5). Save-Owings (5).