BROOKINGS, S.D. - Western Illinois baseball (15-34-1, 5-16) and South Dakota State (17-31-1, 6-12) opened the final series of the season on Thursday in a game that featured six lead changes. Western's offense exploded, powered by two four-run innings but it would not be enough as the Jackrabbits used a five-run eighth inning to earn a 12-10 win after a 3 hour and 10 minute contest in which the Leathernecks made five errors.
Dan Russell was charged with six earned runs but drew a no decision after going 3.2 innings. Gabe Long (0-1) was the losing pitcher as he walked three while not collecting an out during the eighth inning. Western used a total of five pitchers.
Tom Lilja drove in three runs on three hits while Austin Cowen also turned in a multi-hit game with a 2-for-4 performance.
Ty Walker (1-0) collected the win while J.D. Moore collected his fifth save of the season.
Danny Marcuzzo got the Leathernecks going in the first with a leadoff walk and stole second. Dan Dispensa dropped down a sacrifice bunt to get Marcuzzo to third before Austin Cowen singled to right to give Western a 1-0 lead.
Two errors in the bottom of the first gave South Dakota State an early threat. Russell induced a 4-6-3 double play to limit the damage but a run did cross on the play to tie the game, 1-1.
Western was quick to answer in the second with four runs on three hits including a Lilja RBI double and a two-run single from Dispensa to give the lead back to the visitors, 5-1. Rich Mascheri also stole two bases in the frame.
The offensive themed day continued as SDSU started the second with back-to-back singles. Andrew Phelan singled to right for an RBI, brining SDSU within 5-2. The Jackrabbits scored three runs on three hits including a two-run ground rule double from Zach Briggs to tie the game at 5-5.
A high fly ball into right field turned into an RBI double from Eric Cain to give SDSU a 6-5 advantage.
Ryan Cowhey singled home Cowen in the fifth to tie the game again at 6-6 and end the string of five unanswered runs for SDSU.
A hit, walk and a fielding error loaded the bases for the home team to start the bottom of the fifth. Chris Macek came on to replace Mason Pingel and got the first out via a fielder's choice at home. However, SDSU took the lead, 7-6, on a wild pitch. Another 4-6-3 double play allowed Western to escape the inning without further damage.
Matt Igara gave the lead back to the Leathernecks, 8-7, with a two-run home run in the seventh to left field. Lilja repeated Igara's performance with another two-run home run to extend the lead to 10-7.
Two more errors charged to the Leathernecks allowed SDSU to have runners on the corners with one out and the tying run at the plate. Aaron Machbitz doubled off the wall to cut Western's lead to 10-8. Long entered out of the Leatherneck's bullpen and walked in three runs to give the lead back to SDSU, 11-10. A fielder's choice allowed another run to score making it 12-10, Jackrabbits.
SDSU's closer, Moore, would strikeout the side in the ninth to end the game.
The series continues Friday with a doubleheader beginning at noon at Erv Huether Field.