Leathernecks take series at Southern Utah for first time in school history
Courtesy: David Noblett  
Release: Wednesday 04/07/2007
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Brett Pendell made two key defensive plays Saturday for the...

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CEDAR CITY, Utah. — Chris Mayr drove in the winning run in his only at bat for Western Illinois as the Leathernecks won their first series in school history at Southern Utah with a 4-3 win Saturday. The Leathernecks (18-15, 3-1 Mid-Con) got behind the defensive play of Kyle Surprenant and Brett Pendell who made two key game saving plays against the Thunderbirds (4-28, 1-3 Mid-Con) in the ninth inning.

“To finally beat Southern Utah in a series up here and the way we did it was incredible,” Western head coach Stan Hyman said. “We are just ecstatic right now. We came here to win a series and this is a tough place to do that. Chris was ready off the bench and came up with a big hit. There were so many guys though that contributed to this win.”

Mayr broke a scoreless tie in the top of the ninth with a single scoring Dan Johnson from second that gave Western a 4-3 lead. The Leathernecks, who had already made several big defensive plays, made two more plays in the final inning.

Southern Utah’s Jacob Romney led off the bottom of the ninth with a double to right field. Then, after a ground out to Surprenant, Cameron Nelson hit a shot into left field moving Ricardo Alvarez, who pinch ran for Romney, around third and towards home. Pendell, who moved to left field in the bottom of the seventh, fielded the ball and fired a bullet to home plate to catcher Cooper Stewart. Alvarez tried to run over Stewart at the plate, but the sophomore hung on to the ball for the second out of the inning. Surprenant then made a diving stop at shortstop that was headed for left field and fired to second to get the final out and secure the win for Western.

“Not only are we not making errors and playing solid defensively, but to win games like this you have to make two or three big plays in the game,” Hyman said.

Todd Nelson (3-2) grabbed the win, going the final 2.1 innings, allowing no runs and just three hits. Mark DiBernardo got the start allowing three runs on seven hits.

“DiBernardo gave us a great start,” Hyman said. “We were looking for the fourth starter and he gave us some quality innings. He looked like a veteran pitcher out there today and set the tone. Each of the guys in the bullpen did a real good job as well and then Nele’ (Nelson) came in and slammed the door.”

Pendell and Travis Check led the way at the plate with Pendell going 3-for-4 with an RBI double and a run scored and Check going 2-for-4 with an RBI. Johnson was 2-for-4 and Surprenant and Mayr drove in the other two Leatherneck runs.

Southern Utah took a 1-0 lead early in the bottom of the first on back-to-back base hits, but Pendell made an over-the-shoulder catch saving at least one Thunderbird run.

“On that play the ball was crushed and Pendell ran the ball down and made a catch that saved an enormous inning,” Hyman said. “He made a couple of great defensive plays with the throw to the plate in the ninth and the over-the-shoulder catch early in the game.”

Western took a 3-1 lead in the third after Peter Schneider and Stewart scored on a Pendell double and a Surprenant sacrifice fly. Pendell scored the final run of the inning on a Check single.

Southern Utah scored a run both in the fifth and sixth innings tying the game at three setting up the ninth-inning showdown.

Western will now travel back to Macomb, Ill., for a three-game home stand with St. Francis and Alabama A&M. The Leathernecks host St. Francis and the winningest coach in college baseball history, Gordie Gillespie (1690-872), Wednesday at 3 p.m. before hosting A&M April 17-18.
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