NORMAL, Ill. - Dan Russell pitched his team-leading third complete game of the season, but the Western Illinois offense was kept off the scoreboard in a 1-0 series-opening loss at Illinois State on Friday afternoon (May 11). The Leathernecks dropped to 15-31-1 overall, opening the first of three games against the in-state rival.
Russell (3-6) went the distance allowing just six hits, striking out five and one walk allowed. However, the Leathernecks were shutout for the sixth time this season, and second time losing 1-0 to a Missouri Valley Conference opponent (Indiana State on February 24).
Both teams threatened in the first inning. Western took advantage of Dan Dispensa's single, Austin Cowen walk and Matt Igara hit by pitch to load the bases with one out. Chris Razo used a shallow flyball and groundout to end the Leathernecks' threat.
The Redbirds threatened in their half of the frame after Russell recorded two quick outs following a flyball and strikeout. ISU used a double, walk and error to load the bases but Russell got out of the jam when he struck out Mike Hollenbeck.
In the Redbirds (27-16) fifth, Kevin Tokarski singled to start the frame then took second on a sacrifice bunt. Russell got a flyball for the second out. Ty Wiesemeyer hit a grounder to Cowen at shortstop, who made a nice charging play with a backhanded scoop by first baseman Steve Kedroski on the throw to get out of the inning still scoreless.
Zac Johnson led off the decisive sixth with a double. He took third on a flyout and scored on Eric Aguilera's RBI single. Russell avoided any more damage thanks to his defense. Hollenbeck hit a liner right to Cowen, and his throw over to first doubled off Aguilera to end the inning.
Western tried to rally in the seventh when Tom Lilja lined a one-out single and Danny Marcuzzo delivered a two-out single putting runners on first and second, but relief pitcher Justin Hauer got a flyball to end the Leathernecks' scoring chances.
Russell got another key strikeout in the seventh as the senior right-hander struck out Chad Hinshaw with a runner at third to close out the inning. The Redbirds' bullpen sent Western down in order over the final two innings to secure the win.
Marcuzzo finished with two of the team's five hits. Dispensa, Nick Milligan and Lilja each had a hit.
Razo (5-4) scattered those five hits over 6.2 innings, walking one and striking out six. Johnson had two of ISU's six hits. Kenny Long pitched the ninth to record the save.
Game two of the series is scheduled for Saturday (May 12),
first pitch at 2 p.m.