MACOMB, Ill. - Tom Lilja's 14th career home run and a quality start from Nick Smith helped Western Illinois (7-12) take the weekend series with Xavier (8-15) with a 6-4 victory Sunday (March 25) at Alfred D. Boyer Stadium.
The series win is Western's first since May 6-8, 2011 when the Fighting Leathernecks took three of four at IPFW. The win also gives Western Illinois its first non-conference series victory since Feb. 27-28, 2010 when Western took two of three from Furman.
Smith (3-1) lasted seven innings and allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits to go along with six strikeouts. He allowed just two hits after Xavier's three-run third inning. Seth Fuller picked up his third save of the season with two innings out of the bullpen. He allowed one run on three hits.
Austin Cowen drove in two runs on a sacrifice fly while Manny Reyes (2-for-4) had two doubles and an RBI. Rich Mascheri (1-for-2) walked twice, stole a base and scored two runs while Matt Igara (1-for-4) drove in Western's final run.
Xavier jumped out to an early 3-0 in the third inning. Mark Elwell led off with an infield single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. He scored on Igara's throwing error and Derek Hasenbeck's double to right center scored another run. Hasenbeck advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground out to third base.
Western Illinois responded with two runs on two hits in the bottom of the third. Mascheri led off with a single and advanced to second on a balk. Ryan Cowhey walked with one out and Dan Dispensa singled to load the bases. Cowen lifted a deep sacrifice fly to center and Mark Elwell stumbled while making the catch. Cowhey and Mascheri both scored on Elwell's miscue and Western trailed 3-2.
The Leathernecks tacked on three runs in the fourth inning. Steve Kedroski led off with a walk and Lilja lifted the first pitch he saw over the left field fence. Mascheri walked with one out and stole second before scoring on Reyes' double to right field.
Smith posted four consecutive scoreless innings and the offense tacked on another run in the seventh inning. Reyes picked up his second double of the contest to lead off and Igara drove him home with a two-out single through the left side. Reyes barely beat the throw in a close play at home.
Fuller took over for Smith in the eighth inning and Xavier trimmed the Western Illinois lead to 6-4. A leadoff double came around the score on Elwell's liner off Fuller's leg with two outs.
Xavier starter Tyler Koors (1-3) took the loss after allowing five runs on five hits over 3 1/3 innings. Nathan Mutsch was impressive out of the bullpen as he threw 2 2/3 hitless innings in relief of Koors.
The home stand continues this coming weekend when the Bradley Braves visit Macomb for a three-game series beginning on Friday (March 30) at 3:30 p.m.