OMAHA, Neb. -- The Omaha baseball team rallied but came up just short of a comeback against Western Illinois Sunday afternoon, falling 11-10 at Seymour Smith Park. The Mavericks are now 7-24 (5-7 Summit League), while the Leathernecks improve to 9-20 (6-6) with the series win.
WIU starter Javin Drake (2-4) earned the victory on the mound, throwing 5.2 innings and allowing nine runs (seven earned) on eight hits and a walk with three strikeouts. Junior right-hander James Smith (0-3) took the loss, surrendering three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks with a strikeout over 3.0 innings. Pete Minella recorded his first save, keeping Omaha hitless over 2.2 shutout innings.
Freshman Cole Thibodeau led Omaha at the plate, finishing 3-for-4 with three runs scored, while sophomore Henry Wittren was 2-for-3 with a run scored and two more driven in off the bench.
Western Illinois opened to a 6-0 lead, scoring a run in the second, two in the third and three more in the fourth.
In the bottom of the fourth frame, senior Sam Palensky led off with a single to right, then scored on a Thibodeau bunt single with a two-base error on the play. Thibodeau then came in on an RBI groundout by sophomore Grant Suponchick, which cut it to 6-2.
The Leathernecks posted another run in the fifth and four more in the sixth, extending their lead to 11-2.
But Omaha roared back bottom half of the sixth, scoring seven runs on six hits. Wittren started it off with a pinch-hit single to left, after which Palensky was hit by a pitch and Thibodeau walked to load the bases with no outs. A Suponchick RBI single to left scored Wittren, and two batters later, sophomore Riley Herold sent a two-run double down the right field line to plate Palensky and Thibodeau. An RBI groundout by senior Marcus Ethen then drove in Suponchick, and sophomore Parker Smejkal added an RBI single to right to drive in Herold. Redshirt freshman Andrew Hall chipped in a single to right, which pushed Smejkal to third for runners on the corners, and Wittren promptly drove them in with a two-run triple to deep center to cut the Leathernecks' advantage to 11-9.
In the seventh, Thibodeau led off with a single to center, advanced on a wild pitch and came in on an RBI double to center from junior Ryan Cate, which trimmed it to 11-10.
Western Illinois threatened to extend their lead the eighth, putting runners in scoring position with one out, but Omaha escaped after Cate fielded a slow chopper and got the runner at home and reliever Cal Hehnke ended it with a strikeout.
The Leathernecks retired Omaha in order in the bottom half of the inning. In the top of the ninth, Hehnke worked around a Leatherneck single with three more strikeouts, sending UNO to the bottom of the ninth down one with the top of the order due up. Western Illinois, however, preserved the game with a 1-2-3 inning, sealing it at 11-10.
Ben Sellers led WIU at the plate, finishing 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI. Steve McShane, Adam McGinnis, Chris Tschida, Johnathan Fleek and Mitch Ellis all added two more hits apiece.
Omaha returns to action on Friday, April 14, welcoming Oral Roberts to Seymour Smith Park at 4 p.m. Links to live stats and audio will be available on OMavs.com.