What a 2019 season. The Western Illinois baseball team (22-31) recorded the most single-season wins in 12 years to go alongside the most Summit League victories ever (16), but unfortunately, it all came to an end Thursday (May 23) afternoon.
Both Western and South Dakota State faced elimination in game three of the Summit League Tournament, where the Leathernecks led for six innings before dropping the ballgame, 9-5.
“I think we squeezed everything we could out of [the season],” said head coach Ryan Brownlee. “We started 2-7 in the league and expended a ton of energy trying to make the tournament. The guys didn’t shut down.
“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.”
The ball bounced off the outfield trim and over the wall, and very quickly, Western Illinois held a 2-0 edge at the end of the first inning. The solo home run came off the bat of Deion Thompson, who added another RBI an inning later on a bases-loaded walk, but Western was stuck at four runs until the eighth where Drue Galassi sent a solo homer down the left field line.
SDSU posted its first score in the third inning and trailed, 4-1, until the seventh. Jace Warkentien controlled the game’s tempo for most of his appearance (6.1 innings) and thwarted several Jackrabbit advances including an inning-ending, diving force out at third base in the sixth. The top of the fourth saw South Dakota State move a runner to third with no outs, and he was left stranded there as Warkentien crowned the inning with a pair of strikeouts and a fly out. He was credited with five runs, six hits, and four strikeouts.
Western and SDSU finished the afternoon tied with 12 hits apiece.
Additional 2019 highlights: the Leathernecks garnered three First Team All-Summit selections in Galassi, Javin Drake, and CJ Schaeffer Jr.; Drake set the program’s single-season strikeout record at 109 while Galassi moved to ninth all-time in career home runs (20) and seventh in RBI (107); Kevin Raisbeckfinished the season reaching base in 27 consecutive games, which tied for the longest streak since the 2017 season.
***Report Courtesy of Western IL University***