MACOMB, Ill. – Western Illinois baseball (3-4) will travel back to The Peach State, this time to Athens, Ga. for a three-game series with a nationally-ranked, No. 8, Georgia (8-0) Bulldog program. It will be the first meeting ever between the two programs.
Last weekend, the Leathernecks took two of three at The Bulldog Classic in Huntsville, Ala. On Friday, Rich Mascheri lost a 1-0 pitcher's battle to Indiana State. Dan Dispensa drove in three runs on Saturday to lead Western to a 11-2 thrashing of host Alabama A&M. Dustin Hunter also stuck out 12 Bulldogs in that game, earning him Summit League Pitcher of the Week honors. The offense continued to click as Matt Igara and Austin Cowen both drove in two runs in a 9-3 win over Maryland Eastern Shore on Sunday.
The Match Up
Who • Western Illinois (3-4) at #8 Georgia (8-0)
When • Friday, March 2 (5 p.m. CST • Saturday, March 3 (2 p.m. CST) Sunday, March 4 (12 p.m. CST)
Location • Athens, Ga. • Foley Field (3,291)
Live Stats • GeorgiaDogs.com (Free)
Streaming • Georgia All-Access (Subscription)
BULLDOG CLASSIC RECAP: Western Illinois took 2-of-3 last weekend at the Bulldog Classic in Huntsville, Alabama... The Leathernecks opened with a 1-0 loss to Indiana State. Rich Mascheri went the distance, allowing just one run (2nd inning sacrifice fly) on five hits and striking out four. Tom Lilja’s bunt single broke up the no-hitter in the fifth and he followed with another infield single in the seventh, but that would be the only hits Western could manage... Dan Dispensa hit a leadoff home run in game two against host Alabama A&M to get the offense rolling in an 11-2 win. Dustin Hunter struck out a career-high 12 batters in 7.0 innings, giving up two unearned runs on two hits and walking two. Hunter did not allow a base hit from the start of the third inning on as the Leathernecks held AAMU to the two hits in the game. Dispensa and Austin Cowen accounted for three hits each while Matt Igara, Danny Marcuzzo and Ryan Cowhey added two hits apiece... Western fell behind early to Maryland Eastern Shore 2-0, but responded with nine unanswered runs (five in the 7th inning) in a 9-3 win to close out the Classic. Igara led the offense with two hits, two runs and two RBI. Western took advantage of eight walks issued, seven hit batters, two errors, three wild pitches, two balks and a passed ball to pull away. Nick Smith allowed two runs on three hits in five innings. Dan Russell earned the win in relief throwing three hitless innings, walking two and striking out three. Nick Milligan allowed one run in the ninth... Western extended its all-time winning streak to 11-0 versus AAMU and 3-0 against UMES... Indiana State went 4-0, Western 2-1, AAMU 1-3 and Maryland Eastern Shore 0-3 at the Classic. All games were played at Joe Davis Stadium, the Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers and home of the Huntsville Stars.
CATCH THE LEATHERNECKS ALL SEASON LONG VIA THE INTERNET: For the third straight year Western Illinois Baseball will be broadcast live on the internet (Rocky Vision) for free. Fans can log onto www.GoLeathernecks.com and click on the icon to Listen Live.
CDB/WIU: College Baseball Daily (www.CollegeBaseballDaily.com) has teamed up with the Western Illinois baseball team and will feature a weekly journal with an entry from a Leatherneck player or coach. The site is a great source for college baseball news around the nation and will spotlight the current season for Western with various viewpoints from the players and staff.
HUNTER EARNS FIRST WEEKLY AWARD (2/27): Senior right-hander Dustin Hunter was named Summit League ‘Pitcher of the Week’ for his performance against Alabama A&M in the Bulldog Classic, the first weekly award of his career... He struck out a career-high 12 batters, doubling his career-high from the previous week, in 7.0 innings. Hunter gave up two unearned runs on two hits and walked two. He did not allow a base hit since a leadoff single in the third, and struck out the side in both the first and seventh inning... Hunter also needed just nine pitches total to get through the fifth and sixth innings.
WESTERN SWEEPS WEEKLY AWARDS (2/20): Western swept the Summit League weekly awards when Dan Dispensa was named ‘Player of the Week’ and Rich Mascheri was selected ‘Co-Pitcher of the Week’... Dispensa hit .583 last weekend (7-of-12) with three doubles, three runs scored and four RBI... Mascheri scattered four hits in 7.0 shutout innings for the Leathernecks, striking out five... It’s the first weekly award since Bryan Jordan won the offensive award on March 28, 2011... Mascheri is the first Leatherneck pitcher to bring home the award since John Sneegas on March 23, 2009... It’s also the first weekly sweep since March 17, 2008 (Kenny Price - Offensive; Eric Eden - Pitcher).
TRIO WITH THREE HITS IN OPENER: Western wasted no time offensively in the season-opener recording seven runs on 13 hits - all singles - in the 7-5 win over Georgia State... Dan Dispensa and Austin Cowen each had three hits in the 1-2 spots of the batting order. Cowen matched his career-high... Also with three hits was freshman Jameson Henning, who also scored three runs in his first game as a Leatherneck... Danny Marcuzzo also recorded a multi-hit game with two singles and scoring twice.
SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS: Georgia remained undefeated on the year thanks to a 5-0 win on Tuesday night against Savannah State... The Bulldogs play host to Western Carolina on Wednesday night before the three-game set versus Western... As a team, UGA owns a .301 batting average, but boasts an even more impressive .991 fielding percentage (three errors in eight games) and 1.50 ERA (12 runs allowed in eight games, all earned)... UGA blanked SSU, Winthrop (3-0) and Presbyterian (11-0), then allowed just one run in three other games - including a 4-1 win over Georgia State, the only common opponent between the Bulldogs and Western... Taylor Hicks is 2-0 and in both starts combined on a shutout. He has given up four hits in 10.0 IP... Michael Palazzone owns a 3.27 ERA in 11 IP, allowing eight hits and four runs... Alex Wood is 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA, giving up five runs on 13 hits in 12.0 IP. He has fanned 12 and walked one... Blake Dieterich owns two saves... Curt Powell leads the way with a .476 batting average as six starters currently stand at .300 or better at the plate... Levi Hyams has a team-high eight RBI.
STOP THIEF: Western Illinois certainly isn’t afraid to take the extra base early on in 2012... The Leathernecks are 16-of-18 stealing bases through the first seven games, led by Ryan Cowhey at 5-for-5... Rich Mascheri is next at 4-for-4 with Dan Dispensa at 2-for-2... Eight different Leathernecks have stolen a base.
DOUBLE-DUTY MASCHERI: Senior Rich Mascheri played in all four games at Georgia State, doing double-duty in the opener. He was the starting pitcher/designated hitter, then was the DH in the nightcap... Mascheri started in left field in the final two games of the series... He started the scoring for Western in the top of the first in game one when he beat out a potential double play ball, which allowed a run to score and he picked up his first RBI of the 2012 season... The senior led the team stealing 4-of-4 bases in the series... Last weekend he came on in the ninth inning and pinch-hit during his complete game 1-0 defeat as he went 8.0 IP with one run on five hits allowed against Indiana State... Mascheri went 1-for-5 in the other two games with a run scored and stolen base.
DOUBLE DISPENSA: Junior centerfielder Dan Dispensa currently leads the squad with five doubles and has the team’s only home run (game leadoff against Alabama A&M)... In fact, most of Dispensa’s five doubles have been taking the extra base on a hit most would have been kept to first. He has been only thrown out once doing that this year, during the Georgia State series going for two... Six of his 11 base hits have gone for extra bases as he leads Western with a .731 slugging percentage.
LEATHERNECK NOTES: Dustin Hunter has 18 strikeouts in 12.0 IP and the staff overall has fanned 42 batters to 32 walks... Opponents are batting .215 against the Leathernecks... Five Leathernecks have been hit by at least two pitches this year, led by Rich Mascheri’s three... Dan Dispensa and Austin Cowen lead with 11 hits and seven RBI each... Manny Reyes is fifth on the team with four RBI, but has only two base hits. He has one of the four sacrifice flies. Reyes has also thrown out 2-of-6 runners trying to steal... The two complete games thrown by opponents were both shutouts, and one was a 7-inning game... Mascheri has both of Western’s pickoffs this year... Western averages one double play per game, four of which were ground ball DPs.
THE VILLANO FACTOR: Since head coach Mike Villano took over the Leatherneck Baseball program less than two months to the start of the 2010 season, Western has made stark improvements... His 14 wins in year one tie for the second-most victories by a first-year head coach in program history. Dick Pawlow had 15 wins in 1970 and Kim Johnson also had 14 wins in 1999... The +7 improvement to the second year was the second-biggest jump in program history (Stan Hyman +13 from 2002 to 2003)... The team ERA was now cut in half, going from 10.0+ in 2009 to last year’s 5.03... Villano coached the Purple&Gold to a fourth place finish in the Summit League in 2011 and advanced to the postseason tournament for the first time since 2008.
PRESEASON POLL: When head coach Mike Villano took over two years ago, the Leathernecks were an unanimous pick to finish last. Now heading into his third season in charge, Villano and the Leathernecks were picked to finish second in the 2012 Summit League preseason poll. The poll was voted on by the league’s head coaches. Defending champion Oral Roberts received six first-place votes for 36 points. Western was next with 27 points, followed by South Dakota State (25 points) and North Dakota State (21). Southern Utah (19), which received the other first-place vote, Oakland (11) and IPFW (8) rounded out the poll... The top four teams advance to the league tournament, hosted this year by departing league member Oral Roberts.
OUTSIDE ADVANTAGE IN 2012: Unlike previous years when they were forced to stay indoors during the preseason due to wet field conditions, Western Illinois took full advantage of the new Matrix Turf installed at Hanson Field... The artificial turf surface (installed last fall) and unseasonably warm weather allowed the Leathernecks to experience live pitching, take grounders on a fast surface, catch flyballs under the lights and actually scrimmage some... Baseball is one of several sport programs at Western that has taken advantage of the newly installed turf.