MACOMB, Ill. – Western Illinois baseball will begin the 2013 season in Fayetteville against preseason No. 1 ranked Arkansas. The two teams will square off in a three-game series beginning Friday (Feb. 15).
Friday’s game will start the Ryan Brownlee era at Western Illinois. First-pitch is set for 3:05 p.m., Saturday will feature one game beginning at 12:05 p.m., and the series will conclude Sunday with a 1:05 p.m. start.
THE MATCH UP
Who: Western Illinois at #1 Arkansas
When: Friday, Feb. 15 (3:05 p.m.) • Saturday, Feb. 16 (12:05 p.m.)
Sunday, Feb. 17 (1:05 p.m.)
Where: Fayetteville, Ark. • Baum Stadium (10,737)
Play-by-Play: Sean Ingrassia
Live Stats: ArkansasRazorbacks.com
AT THE HELM: Ryan
Brownlee is in his first season as the head coach of the Fighting Leatherneck
baseball team. Brownlee officially began his coaching duties on October 2,
2012. The former Iowa assistant coach brings 15 years of Division I experience
to Western Illinois. He spent his last nine years as a member of the Hawkeye
coaching staff as an assistant and recruiting coordinator. Before Iowa,
Brownlee was an assistant at James Madison for four seasons.
RETURNING LEATHERNECKS: Western returns 14 players from last year’s squad that finished 17-35-1. The Leathernecks bring back four starting position players and seven pitchers in 2013. As a team in 2012, the Leathernecks batted .253 with a .949 fielding percentage… On the mound, the pitchers lowered the ERA for the fourth-consecutive year, finishing the season at 4.85. Dan Dispensa earned Second Team All-Summit League honors and returns to centerfield in 2013. He led last year’s squad in seven statistical categories, most notably batting average (.344) and hits (66)… Steve Kedroski hit .237 last season with 33 hits and seven doubles… Brent Turner saw action in 30 games hitting .188 and swiping three bases… Manny Reyes led the team in fielding percentage (.988) and will return behind the plate for his senior season… Nick Smith headlines the pitching staff in 2013. Smith is the only returning member of last year’s starting rotation... He posted a 4.98 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 68.2 IP, with opponents batting .275 against him during his freshman campaign… Tyler Willman started two games, ending with a 1-1 record and 11 strikeouts in 11.2 IP… Brian Loconsole is the only other returning Leatherneck who got a start in 2012. He finished the year with one start in seven appearances... Several other returners and newcomers will look for playing time in the field and on the pitching mound in 2013.
FRESH FACES: The Leatherneck baseball team added 15 new players to the 2013 roster... Eleven players come from JUCO schools, while four true-freshmen join the team... Of the 15 newcomers, eight are position players while seven are pitchers... Western also has four redshirt-freshmen on this year’s roster in Nate Ewing, Erik Maki, Tyler Farrell and Jameson Henning... Henning played in nine games last year before an injury sidelined him for the season. He was granted a medical redshirt and will have four years of eligibility left.
PRESEASON POLL: Western Illinois baseball was picked to finish fourth in the Summit League preseason poll. The voting was done by all six Summit League baseball coaches. North Dakota State was picked to win the conference, receiving five first-place votes and a total of 25 points. South Dakota State placed second with 17 points, followed by Oakland in third with 16 points. The Golden Grizzlies of Oakland received the only other first-place vote from the coaches. The Leathernecks received 15 points to finish in fourth place in the voting. Rounding out the preseason voting were Fort Wayne in fifth place with nine points, and conference newcomer Omaha in sixth place with eight points.
SCOUTING THE RAZORBACKS: Arkansas heads into the opening weekend of the year with the number one ranking in college baseball. The Razorbacks finished the 2012 season with a 46-22 overall record, which included a trip to the College World Series and a third place finish. The Razorbacks return 17 players from last years squad, including 10 pitchers that contributed to last season’s 2.83 team ERA. Starting pitcher Ryne Stanek and reliever Colby Suggs were both selected as First Team All-Americans by the Major League Baseball scouting directors. Offensively, Arkansas returns six position players that made 30 or more starts in 2012. The Razorbacks were picked first in the preseason SEC West poll.
THE LAST TIME: The Leathernecks faced a nationally-ranked opponent was in 2012 against Georgia. Western faced off in a three game series against the No. 8 ranked Bulldogs, winning the final game 7-4. Nick Smith picked up his first collegiate win in the game, striking out seven batters in 7 2/3 innings on the mound.
TOP TEN LIST: Senior outfielder Dan Dispensa is
currently tied for eighth all-time in career hits at Western Illinois with 172.
The all-time career hit mark for the Leathernecks is 232 by Ryan Schmidgall
(2003-06)... Dispensa is just outside the top ten in six other statistical
categories, including: games played (149), runs (96), doubles (25), triples (8), walks (70) and total bases (228).
PITCHERS: The Leathernecks will turn to a young pitching core for the 2013 season with just two senior pitchers on the roster in Brian Loconsole and Sam Welvaert... Sophomore Nick Smith returns as the only member of last season’s starting rotation and will be at the top of the rotation to start the year. Smith started 12 games in 2012, highlighted by a win over No. 8 ranked Georgia. He ended his freshman season going 3-6 with a 4.98 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 68.2 IP… Loconsole appeared in seven games making one start… Welvaert appeared in two games throwing 0.1 innings… Sophomore Tyler Willman will look to be in the starting rotation in 2013. The righty started two games last season, ending the year with a 1-1 record and 11 strikeouts in 11.2 IP… Western also returns sophomores Mason Pingel (5.00 ERA/9 IP), Nick Milligan (6.00 ERA/6 IP) and Tom Constand (8.59 ERA/ 7.1 IP) to the bullpen... Newcomers John White (John Wood CC) and Riley Perry (Oakton CC) should see plenty of action on the mound this season.
CATCHERS: Senior Manny Reyes will be the starting catcher for the second consecutive season. The Nipomo, Calif. native started 43 games in 2012, batting .180 and ending the year with a .988 fielding percentage… Mark Garton should also see some action this spring. The sophomore started 11 games last season for the Leathernecks… Western also added Matt Risdon this year out of Kishwaukee CC.
INFIELD: Western loses three starting infielders from the 2012 season in Brent Turner returns at second base in 2013 after starting 19 games during his true-freshman season. Senior Steve Kedroski will get the start at first base. He played in 49 games last season hitting .237 with 33 hits, including a grand slam against Iowa. Jameson Henning returns after being injured almost all of last year. The redshirt-freshman started 2012 at shortstop before injuring his wrist nine games into the year. Henning will move to third base this season and get the start. Travis Stafford (Allen County CC) will start at shortstop in his first season as a Leatherneck… Expect Nate Ewing (2012 redshirt) and Jake Moore (2012 redshirt) to battle for the DH spot at the start of the season. The Leathernecks also added infielders Tanner Glore (Mineral Area CC) and Payton Jeffers (Williamsville HS) to the 2013 roster. (1B), (SS) and (3B).
OUTFIELD: Senior Dan Dispensa (2012 Second Team All Summit League) was the biggest asset for the Leathernecks in 2012 and will return for his final year in centerfield. He hit .344 last season with 66 hits, 37 runs scored, 12 doubles and three triples, all team-leading numbers. The senior is also just 60 hits away from becoming the all-time hits leader in a Western uniform (232 is record)… Left and right field will be a battle in 2013. In left expect to see Erik Maki (2012 redshirt) and Joey White (Morton CC) battle for the starting spot. Also expect a battle in right between newcomers Neil DeCook (Kankakee CC) and Zach Burling (John Wood CC). Senior transfer JP Maestas (Hancock CC/UC Bakersfield) will also see time in the outfield.