MACOMB, Ill. - Dustin Hunter impressed on the mound and Western Illinois baseball (6-12) snapped a four-game losing streak Saturday (March 24) with an 8-2 win over Xavier (8-14) at Alfred D. Boyer Stadium.
Hunter (2-0) got the victory by allowing two runs (one earned) over six innings of work. He struck out nine batters and only allowed two hits. Hunter now has 46 strikeouts over 33 1/3 innings this season.
Austin Cowen drove in two runs while Ryan Cowhey (2-for-3), Dan Dispensa (2-for-3) and Matt Igara all scored two runs for the Fighting Leathernecks. Cowhey, who has reached base in 13 consecutive contests, stole two bases and is 16-for-16 in stolen bases attempts this season. Tom Lilja went 2-for-3 and drove in Western's final run.
Two Western Illinois errors in the second inning helped Xavier score first. Igara's throw to first base was wide and Cowen mishandled a grounder at shortstop. Brian Bruening followed with a one-out single through the right side and the Musketeers took a 1-0 lead.
Western Illinois tied the contest in the bottom of the second on Nick Milligan's two-out single. Dispensa was hit by a pitch with one out and advanced to second on Lilja's groundout. Milligan's grounder snuck through the left side of the infield and Dispensa trotted home.
Dispensa's two-out single highlighted Western's four-run third inning. Reyes led off with a walk and Cowhey doubled over the right fielder's head. Mascheri fouled out and Cowen was intentionally walked to load the bases for Igara.
Reyes scored on Igara's fielder's choice and Dispensa singled through the right side to score Cowhey. Mitch Elliott muffed the pickup and throw in right field and Igara scored all the way from first base. Lilja walked and pinch-hitter Dan Owenby singled up the middle to score Dispensa and extend the Western lead to 5-1.
Hunter ran into trouble in the fourth inning by allowing a leadoff walk. Tres Eberhardt advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on Bruening's double off the centerfield fence. Bruening advanced to third on a wild pitch and Mark Elwell walked. Hunter struck out Elliott, picked off Elwell and induced a grounder to Igara at third to escape the threat.
Western answered with a two-run inning in the bottom of the fourth. Cowhey singled and stole second base with one out. A pitch hit Rich Mascheri and both runners advanced one base on a double steal. Cowen followed with a single to center field and Western led 7-2.
The Leathernecks added an insurance run in the sixth inning on two hits. A pitch hit Igara with one out and Dispensa singled to centerfield. Lilja followed with a single through the left side and Igara scored to make it a six-run lead.
Dan Russell earned his first save of the season with three scoreless innings. He struck out two and allowed one hit out of the bullpen. Jon Richard (2-3) was charged with the loss after allowing seven runs (six earned) over 3 1/3 innings.
The two teams will conclude the series on Sunday with first pitch set for Noon. Nick Smith (2-1, 4.15 ERA) will go against Tyler Koors (1-2, 5.88 ERA).