The Dirtbags returned home on Tuesday night to take on a winless Western Illinois squad. Granted, W. Illinois has only played six games. Talk about waiting for the snow to melt…
First Inning- Both teams got the leadoff man on, but the Leathernecks— that’s right, Western Illinois Leathernecks— added two hits and two runs off Dirtbag starter Tyler Topp. (I’m a sucker for a Saluki and a buddy with any Banana Slug, but Leatherneck could be a new favorite on my short list of classic collage nicknames. Dirtbags is still number one, no matter the score.) Dirtbags 0, Leathernecks 2.
Second Inning- Topp got spun in the first inning (I had to do it) but he settled down in the second. Despite a catcher’s interference call and a stolen base, he struck out second baseman Cole Waddell to end the inning. Not the usual starter behind the plate, catcher John Hill made up for the mistakes in the top half of the inning with a quality at bat in the bottom half. He drew a walk. A fielder’s choice, a single and a walk later and the Dirtbags had the bases loaded with two outs, but TJ Mittelsteadt lined out to right field. Dirtbags 0, Leathernecks 2.
Third Inning- With two outs, Topp walks two and gives up a hard single that scored a run. Topp doesn’t throw the ball extremely hard, but he is a rare “crafty-righty.” He changes speeds and locations on almost every pitch. Evident as he strikes out designated hitter TJ Kistner with a pitch that was almost over his head to get out of the inning. The Dirtbags did a nice job NOT swinging at bad pitches. Danny Espinosa drew a walk, and when Shane Peterson sent one to the warning track it looked like the Dirtbags were going to get on the board. However, centerfielder Brett Pendell made an “ESPN worthy” diving catch on the track dirt to rob Peterson of extra bases. Dirtbags 0, Leathernecks 3.
Fourth Inning- Topp gave up two hard hits, one that bounced off his leg, and Adam Wilk replaced him with two on and one out. Wilk got a strikeout and a ground out to end the threat. The Dirtbags also hit the ball hard, but Jason Corder could only get it to the warning track, and Leatherneck right fielder Jerry Price made a diving catch to rob Brandon Godfrey of extra bases. (It’s time for a new play list at Dirtbag games. It’s been a lot of Sheryl Crow and AC/DC. Nothing against ‘em, but it’s time for a change because it’s been Crow and them for the last three years.) Dirtbags 0, Leathernecks 3.
Fifth Inning- Wilk gave up a double to Cooper Stewart with one out, but Wilk and Espinosa worked hard to hold Stewart on, and Wilk got a strike out and a ground out. Leatherneck starter Eric Eden settled in nicely. The 6’5” righty spread two hits over five innings and kept the Dirtbags scoreless, thanks much in part to great defense. Dirtbags 0, Leathernecks 3.
Sixth Inning- Anthony Carrillo replaced Wilk and sat down the Leathernecks in order, while Eden got saved by his defense again, twice. (Five dollar beers add up… that’s all I got to say about that.) Dirtbags 0, Leathernecks 3.
Seventh Inning- Carillo gave up a hit and hit a batter, and was replaced by Nick Vincent, who struck out the first two batters he faced. The Dirtbags threatened and chased Eden, but the defense was there to make the play again as the Leathernecks ended the inning with a double play. Dirtbags 0, Leathernecks 3.
Eighth Inning- After Vincent took care of business in the top half, Leatherneck relievers Chris Fuchs and Todd Nelson took care of some dangerous Dirtbags in Chris Nelson, Espinosa and Peterson. Dirtbags 0, Leathernecks 3.
Ninth Inning- Dirtbag reliever Bryan Shaw gave up a single, and after an error the Leathernecks had men on second and third with no outs. The Leathernecks tried a suicide bunt, but the bunt attempt was unsuccessful and the runner was caught in a pickle and thrown out. (Every time someone gets into a pickle between home and third, I have to stand up. I even feel like running on the field yelling, “PICKLE!!!” I don’t know why, but I think it has something to do with The Sandlot.)
In the bottom of the ninth, Taylor Krick and Hill put together great at-bats and drew back-to-back walks to start the inning. But guess what, the Leatherneck defense was there again to save the day, as left fielder Jared Wolf made a diving catch in foul ground. Frank Zenisek recorded his first save of the year as the Leathernecks picked up their first win of the year
The Dirtbags (9-3) will next be in action at Blair Field on Friday at 6:30pm and Sunday at 1:00pm to take on the USC Trojans.