ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Seven pitchers combined to give up just five hits and Andrew Hagins homered in his first action of the 2010 season as the Western Illinois baseball team picked up a road win at Saint Louis, Wednesday, March 3.
"Our pitchers did a great job of coming out and executing their game plans," Western Illinois head coach Mike Villano said. "They attacked the strike zone well and with a good attitude and that's what we want to see."
The Fighting Leathernecks (3-1) picked up their third straight win of the year and defeated the Billikens (4-4) for the first time since the 1998 season.
Western Illinois struck first after Cole Waddell led off the game with a single before advancing to second on a wild pitch. Bryan Jordan's single through the left side of the infield to bring Waddell across the plate to give the Leathernecks the 1-0 lead.
Saint Louis looked as though it would find its way to an early score when leadoff hitter J.D. Dunn hit a sharp ground ball up the middle, but Waddell made a dazzling defensive play, ranging to his right before making the throw from just behind second base to record the out.
The Leathernecks would get on the board again in the fourth inning when Tom Lilja led off with a triple to right-center field and came around to score on Chris Giglio's single through the left side to stretch the lead to 2-0.
After Carlos Pinedo held the Billikens scoreless in the bottom of the fourth, Western would extend its lead on Andrew Hagins' solo homer to right field in the top of the fifth. The home run, which extended the lead to 3-0, was Hagins' first homer of the season and the 11th of his career.
"As long as Andrew keeps preparing the way he should and keeps working the way he has been, he's going to be great for us," Villano said. "He's a fantastic baseball player."
The Billikens would put up single runs in each of the next two innings while holding Western scoreless. Jerry Mancuso homered off Chris Fuchs to lead off the sixth inning to cut the deficit to two runs.
Chance Hill took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning and allowed two runners to reach before being lifted for David Hill after a sacrifice bunt put two runners in scoring position with one out. Dunn hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Steve Fernandez from third, cutting the lead to 3-2. Hill would induce a fly ball out to Mancuso in the next at bat to keep the lead at one run.
"David has been very good for us so far," Villano said. "He just needs to keep being aggressive and force contact the way he has been."
The Leathernecks would score once more in the contest. Anthony Kaskadden reached on a fielder's choice in the second at-bat of the inning before advancing to third on Lilja's single through the right side of the infield. After a pitching change, Kaskadden would come around to score when Saint Louis first basemen Danny Brock committed an error to give Western a 4-2 lead.
The Billikens would tighten the gap once more in the bottom of the ninth inning when Andrew Guerra hit a solo homer off Travis Pedersen with one out to make the score 4-3. Pedersen would strike out two of the next three hitters to close the game out for his first save of the season.
"We've been preparing really hard every single day," Villano said. "If you pitch well and maintain a good, disciplined offensive approach then you'll be successful against a lot of teams."
Western Illinois finished the game with four runs on 11 base hits and six walks. The Billikens finished with three runs on five hits and four walks.
Chris Macek (1-0) picked up the win for Western in his first start as a Leatherneck. Macek did not allow a hit and walked just one batter in his two innings of work.
Tommy Coovert (1-2) took the loss after allowing one run on four hits in two innings of work. Coovert struck out three without a walk.
The Leathernecks will return to action on Friday when they face No. 17 Oklahoma at 3 p.m. at the Sooner Classic in Norman, Okla. Western will take on Stephen F. Austin on Saturday (11 a.m. and 7 p.m.) before finishing its trip to Norman with an 11 a.m. match up against South Florida on Sunday.