Western Illinois University baseball team’s historic season ended today after a 9-5 loss to South Dakota State University in the first elimination game of the 2019 Summit League Tournament.
The No. 4 seeded Leathernecks jumped out to an early lead over the No. 2 ranked Jack Rabbits after scoring 2 runs in both the first and second innings. Deion Thompson was responsible for a pair of those runs after he hit a solo shot to left in the first inning and followed it up with a bases-loaded walk in the second inning to extend WIU’s lead to 4-0.
Leathernecks starter Jace Warkentien let up a run the next inning on a sacrifice-fly from SDSU’s Drew Beazley, but Warkentien locked in after that to hold the Jacks scoreless until the seventh inning. Beazley stepped up to the plate again for the Jacks to belt an RBI-double and spark a rally. Gus Steiger scored the next run for SDSU off a fielder’s choice and Braden Brown dealt the rest of the damage in the seventh inning with a two-out, RBI-single to tie the game at 4-4.
Western Illinois let the game slip from their grasp the very next inning. SDSU’s offense exploded to score 5 runs and put the Jacks comfortably ahead with a lead of 9-4 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. Drue Galassi then produced the last run of the Leathernecks season when he smashed an opposite-field home run to left field. That made the score 9-5 after the eighth inning, but the Leathernecks had only one more opportunity to possibly win the game and move on to the next round of the Summit League Tournament for a chance at the title.
Unfortunately, that dream for WIU couldn’t come true as SDSU shut down the Leathernecks bats in the last inning to steal the elimination game and move on to the next round. The Jack Rabbits will now play the winner from the matchup this Friday between top-seeded Omaha and 3rd ranked Oral Roberts.
WIU capped off 2019’s historic season with the most single-season wins (22) in 11 years, and the highest amount of Summit League wins in program history with 16.
“We did some things that have never happened. We beat Oral Roberts five times, won some really hard games on the road, two early series on the road, and that's all positive. It's always disappointing when you end the season; you're sad because you may or may not see your seniors again, and the makeup of the team will be different next year so you have to start all over again. That's college baseball, and there's not much time to dwell on it or feel sorry for yourself,” said WIU head coach Ryan Brownlee.
WIU starter Javin Drake also made history for the program in his last appearance against Omaha on Wednesday, when he struck out 4 batters to increase his record-breaking total to 109 K’s in a single-season.
(WIU Athletics credited with the quote. Visit their recap story here)