Leathernecks record second top-10 victory with 5-3 win over No. 4 Missouri
Courtesy: Brock Wissmiller  
Release: Friday 04/01/2008
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Courtesy: Brock Wissmiller/Western Illinois Athletics
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Zach Berg went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and one RBI in Western's...

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COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Western Illinois baseball team got on the board early and had to fight off a late rally to earn its second top-10 victory of the season, as they defeated No. 4 Missouri, 5-3 Tuesday night.

The second inning saw the Leathernecks (5-14) put three runs on the board. Cooper Stewart and Steve Strutz got things going with back-to-back one out singles. An error in right field by the Tigers (20-6) on the Strutz single allowed Western to put runners at second at third. Zach Berg came through with an RBI single to bring home Stewart with the first run of the game. A sac fly to center by Tyler Metcalf followed up by a Kyle Surprenant RBI-single brought home two more runs in the inning.

In the third inning Drew Laidig created a scoring opportunity for himself. After hitting his first triple of the season with two-outs, he was able to score on an ensuing pass ball making it 4-0.

Berg picked up his second hit of the game to start things in the fourth. After stealing second and Metcalf drawing a walk, Jared Wolf singled to load the bases. With one out, Cole Waddell hit a sac fly to right, bringing in Berg and making it a 5-0 contest.

Western got a strong pitching performance from starter Ben Percival. He allowed five hits through the first five innings of the game. After giving up a single to start the seventh and inducing a fly to right for the first out, Percival turned the game over to Justin Eissens. After struggling with control and walking two batters, Ryan Lollis delivered a two-out, two-RBI single to put Mizzou on the board for the first time.

The Tigers gave Eissens and Western all they could handle in the ninth inning. A leadoff walk followed up with a wild pitch and then a single put runners on the corners with nobody out. A sac fly cut the lead down to two. After another fly-out, Eissens issued a walk and then hit the next batter to load the bases and put the tying run on second. After Dan Pietroburgo worked the count full, Eissens got a fly ball to left to end the game and give the Leathernecks their fourth straight win.

“We arrived late to the ball park because guys had to be in class and we were not able to take batting practice because of that,” said Western Illinois head coach Stan Hyman. “Brett Pendell and T.J. Kistner had to come late to the game because they were in class when we left. It forced us to put a few different guys into the lineup and they responded. Berg played a huge part in the win. Dan Johnson had some big at-bats for us and Waddell came off the bench with a big sac-fly for us.”

The win marked the second over a team ranked in the top-ten this season for Western, and the highest ranked opponent defeated in school history. This was the second time that the Leathernecks have set that mark this season. The other came on March 11, in a 3-0 victory over then No. 7 Long Beach State.

“This is what we needed right now,” Hyman added. “To beat our second top-10 team shows that it wasn’t a fluke and we need to build on this now. It was the same formula as the Long Beach State game; score first, don’t make an error and pitch ahead in the count. It’s a good formula for victory. Tonight we repeated it and now we have to sustain it.”

The two runs that crossed the plate in the seventh inning for the Tigers were the first runs that the Leatherneck pitching staff surrendered in 31 innings.

“Percival threw an absolute gem,” Hyman stated. “We knew to beat them that we would have to throw inside because they like to crowd the plate. Ben was pitching ahead in the count and effectively inside all game. Eissens did the job down the stretch, he made it a little interesting, but got it down and held them off. It’s nice to see that as we head into conference, our starting pitching is at the top of their games.”

Western returns home for a 3:30 matchup Wednesday with Robert Morris College at Alfred D. Boyer Stadium.
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