ATHENS, Ga. - Freshman starter Nick Smith picked up his first career victory and Western Illinois (4-6) pounded out 12 hits Sunday (March 4) in a 7-4 victory over No. 8 Georgia (10-2) in the series finale at Foley Field.
Smith (1-0) allowed six hits and four runs (two earned) over 7 2/3 innings on the mound. He struck out seven batters and walked four. Western Illinois roughed up Bulldog starter Taylor Hicks (2-1), who allowed four runs on six hits in two innings of work.
Ryan Cowhey had a big day with two hits, two walks, four stolen bases and two runs scored. Austin Cowen went 2-for-4 at the plate with a RBI and run scored. Matt Igara singled in a run in the fourth inning and has reached base in eight consecutive contests. Cowhey, Cowen and Igara are all riding five-game hitting streaks.
Georgia got on the scoreboard first with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Curt Powell led off with a single to left field and advanced to third on a groundout and passed ball. Kyle Farmer drove home Powell with a single and advanced two bases on a wild pitch. He then scored on Levi Hyams' groundout to Lilja at first base.
Western's four-run second inning started with Lilja's single to centerfield. Cowhey followed with an infield single to shortstop and Howard reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Henning delivered a clutch single to left field to score Lilja and Reyes followed with a sacrifice fly to score Cowhey. Howard advanced to third on Reyes' sacrifice fly and ran home on Farmer's throwing error at shortstop. Mascheri capped the scoring with a single to center field that scored Henning.
Cowhey doubled to left field in the third inning and stole third base but was stranded when Howard was picked off at first base. With two outs in the fourth inning, Dispensa was hit by a pitch and Cowen tripled him home for the Leathernecks' fifth run. Igara followed with a single to left field and Cowen scored to extend the lead to 6-2.
Smith loaded the bases in the bottom half of the fourth inning but got Brett DeLoach to ground into a fielder's choice to end the threat. Cowhey scored all by himself in the fifth inning. He led off the inning with a walk, stole two bases and trotted home on DeLoach's throwing error.
Seth Fuller relieved Smith with two on and two outs in the eighth inning after Georgia had pushed across two runs. Fuller got Brandon Stephens to fly out to right field and Western held on to a three-run lead heading into the ninth inning.
Fuller allowed a one-out single to Conor Welton in the ninth inning but got Farmer and Hyams to fly out to end the game. He faced five batters over 1 1/3 innings to earn his second save of the season.
Western Illinois travels to Bowling Green, Kentucky, next weekend
(March 9-11) for a three-game series with Western Kentucky at Nick Denes Field.
The Hilltoppers are 4-7 overall this season following a series win over Kent State.