Leathernecks travel to Sooner State to take on Oklahoma
Courtesy: David Noblett  
Release: Wednesday 02/21/2007
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Courtesy: WIU Visual Productions Center
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MACOMB, Ill. — The toughest stretch of the season begins this week for Western Illinois. The Leathernecks will take on Oklahoma, Kansas, Washburn, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Nebraska over the next several weeks. The Sooners are first up on the docket as Western travels to Norman, Okla., for a three-game series with the Sooners. The Leathernecks will play Friday at 3 p.m. with 1 p.m. games Saturday and Sunday.

The series
Oklahoma holds a 7-1 advantage over the Leathernecks. The lone win for Western came April 14, 2004, when Western upset the then 18th-ranked Sooners in Norman (5-4) in 13 innings. The game features coaches who know their way around the Mid-Continent Conference. Sunny Galloway, head coach for Oklahoma, spent eight years as the coach of Oral Roberts with his last year being 2003. That was the same year that Western Illinois head coach Stan Hyman earned the school’s first Mid-Con Coach of the Year award.

Last Week
The Leathernecks swept the series with Alabama A&M taking all three games over the weekend. Western came from behind twice to beat the Bulldogs. The 6-2 mark for Western continues to be the best record to open the season since 1985. In the series with A&M, junior Brett Pendell, a LaHarpe-West Prairie graduate, went 9-for-11 at the plate while scoring seven runs.

Western Illinois is poised for another banner season as it looks to earn its first conference title since the 1984 season when the Mid-Continent Conference began play. The Leathernecks are the three-time runners-up in conference play and runners-up in the conference tournament in 2006. Coming off a season in which Western recorded the most wins in school history and its first 30-win season, the Leathernecks look to be a consistent force in the Mid-Con.

Going for another record season
The Leathernecks finished the season with a school best 32 wins last year and its first non-losing season since 1995. Western, who went 32-32 last year, winning 20 of its last 26 games, turned around a 5-18 start into a 27-14 finish.

All-American boys
Quinn Leath, who was selected to the All-Mid-Con First Team last year, was 21st in the country in ERA (2.06). He also led the conference in opponent’s batting average (.224). The southpaw from Stronghurst, Ill., will be the ace to an already strong rotation.

Travis Check returns as the leading hitter for Western Illinois after hitting .369 a year ago. He also led the team in home runs (6), slugging percentage (.519), on base percentage (.442) and total bases (109), earning him a spot on the All-Mid-Con Second Team.

All-conference watch list
Western possibly has its best team ever as shown by returning five All-Mid-Con Selections from a year ago.

Outside of Check and Leath, Matt Newquist, T.J. Kistner and Kelly Flanery anchor a Western team loaded with talent.

Newquist hit .300 with four home runs. Kistner hit .292 with 23 RBIs and Flanery drove in 24 runs.

Check and Leath were named to the 2007 Preseason All-Conference Watch list by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Newcomer Frank Zenisek was named to Baseball America’s list and Matt Newquist was named to Collegiate Baseball’s list.

Pendell earns national honor
Brett Pendell was named to the CBF National Honor Roll ‘Players of the Week’ for the week of Feb. 20. The junior from Plymouth, Ill., received the honor after going 10-for-14 over the week and 9-of-11 in the Alabama A&M series. The outfielder also earned his second Mid-Con Player of the week honor in three weeks. He received the same award for the week of Feb. 5.

Offensive fire power
The Leathernecks lead the Mid-Con in batting average (.338), RBIs (70), runs scored (78), doubles (19), on-base percentage (.447) and slugging percentage (.491).

This year the middle of the lineup is producing its fair share of runs. Pendell, Check, Newquist and Jake Corley are hitting a combined average of .449. They have produced 42 of the 70 runs scored this season.

Base thieves
The 2006 team set the school record for stolen bases with 115. Check and Kistner are the top returning base stealers from 2006 with both stealing 15.

The Leathernecks again are aggressive on the bases. Already this year Western has swiped 19 bases. Kistner is 4-of-6 and Pendell is 5-of-7 in stolen base attempts.

Johnson continuing scoreless inning streak
Senior Rob Johnson went 4-2 last season and was second on the team and eighth in the conference in strikeouts with 55 while recording three saves. As a reliever he still holds a streak of throwing 34 consecutive scoreless innings.

New arms in the rotation
Hyman has already dubbed this recruiting class as one of his best since coming to Western in 2002. Collegiate Baseball agreed, ranking Western’s 2006 recruiting class one of the top recruiting classes in the nation back in September 2006.

Frank Zenisek leads the way for the newcomers. The 6-foot-3 junior from Wichita, Kan., has professional scouts talking about his strong arm. He was clocked at 94 mph during Western’s annual scout day.

Travis Tolsma and Justin Eissens will help bolster the the rotation. Eissens was an All-Arrowhead Conference pick at Black Hawk College and was the conference’s Pitcher of the Year.Tolsma comes from Triton College where he went 13-2 and was named to the all-conference first team. He was 8-2 in his sophomore campaign recording a 2.43 ERA.

Fresh faces in the infield
Third baseman Jake Corley and Shortstop Kyle Surprenant will replace one of the best left sides Western has had in Nick Simmons and Ryan Schmidgall. Corley hit .275 at Tusculum College and Surprenant hit .350 at Kankakee Community College.

Hyman hits milestones
Head coach Stan Hyman recorded his 300th win last year with a victory over Oakland (12-5) in the Mid-Con Tournament in Tulsa, Okla. He scored his 100th triumph at Western Illinois with a 6-2 victory versus Centenary in Shreveport, La., April 6, 2006.

When Western defeated Northwestern (13-9) Feb. 10, Hyman recorded his 125 win at Western Illinois. After sweeping the series with Alabama A&M, Hyman now needs 22 victories to get to 150. If the Leathernecks record another 30-win season, he will achieve that mark.

Oklahoma began the season ranked No. 9 in Baseball America, but has since dropped out the rankings. Oklahoma lost its top five hitters from the 2006 season in which the Sooners fell to No. 1 Rice in the NCAA Super Regionals in Houston. OU did return All-Big 12 Second Team selection Aaron Reza who hit .318 for the Sooners last season. Galloway holds a 9-0 advantage over Hyman and head-to-head matchups.

Two Big Ten teams will make the trip to Macomb, Ill., this year as games with Purdue and Iowa highlight the 2007 schedule. This will be the first time the Boilermakers have ever made a trip to Western Illinois.

Western will also play six Big 12 schools, including the defending Big 12 Tournament champions and runners-up in Kansas and Missouri. The Leathernecks also make trips to Oklahoma, Nebraska and Oklahoma State and have already played Texas Tech and Northwestern in Lubbock, Texas.

Road trips find ranked foes
Western will spend 23 of its first 24 games on the road and has games scheduled against two teams ranked in the top 25 of Collegiate Baseball’s Top 30 Poll.

Nebraska is ranked No. 7 (17 in BA and 12 in NCBWA), Oklahoma State is No. 23 (19 in BA and 16 in NCBWA).

Mid-Con Championships come to Macomb
For the first time in school history Western Illinois will host the Mid-Con Baseball Championship, May 24-26, at Alfred D. Boyer Stadium.

Alfred D. Boyer Stadium, which was completed in April of 2006 and had its grand opening May 6, will host its first full season in 2007. The stadium was named after Western Illinois alumni Al Boyer who has made major contributions to Leatherneck baseball.



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