Sophomore Parker Smejkal and the Omaha baseball team host Western Illinois at Seymour Smith Park this weekend.
Courtesy: Omaha Athletics

Omaha, Western Illinois Set for Weekend Series

Omaha Athletics | April 06, 2017
Leading Off
The Omaha baseball team is in the midst of an 11-game homestand and welcomes Western Illinois to Seymour Smith Park this weekend for a three-game Summit League series. First pitch on Friday is set for 4 p.m., followed by 2 p.m. on Saturday and Noon on Sunday. Student broadcasters Noah Sullinger and Alex Abler will have the radio call on the MavRadio broadcasts, and links to live stats and audio will be available on OMavs.com.

Quick Hits
•Freshman Cole Thibodeau saw his nine-game hitting streak come to an end last Sunday. It was the longest streak of any Maverick this season.
•Senior Sam Palensky carries a career-long 19-game reaching base streak, also the longest of any Maverick this year.
•Senior Marcus Ethen and sophomore Nate Mallott had standout plate performances vs. North Dakota State last weekend, with Ethen batting .444 (4-for-9) and Mallott hitting .429 (3-for-7).
•Junior Corey Binger is one of seven pitchers in the country with three or more complete games this season.
•Twenty-eight players have seen playing time in the Mavericks' first 28 games.
•Omaha played a three-game series at No. 6 Louisville Feb. 24-26, marking the highest-ranked opponent Omaha has faced in the Division I era.
•The 2017 season marks Omaha’s second with full NCAA Division I postseason eligibility for the Summit League and NCAA Tournaments. The Mavericks completed a required four-year Division I reclassification period from 2012 to 2015.
•UNO returns 19 letterwinners this year, including six position players with starting experience: Palensky, juniors Ryan Cate and Adam Caniglia and sophomores Riley Herold, Grant Suponchick and Jack Kalina.
•Cate is the Mavericks' lone returning All-Summit selection.
•UNO was picked fourth in the Summit League Preseason Coaches’ Poll for the second straight season. In 2016, the Mavericks went on to finish as the league's regular-season runner-up.
•Omaha is 259-300 all-time against all opponents on the schedule this year and 149-131 all-time against the five other teams in the Summit League. The Mavericks have compiled a 69-50 record in Summit League play since 2013.

Scouting the Western Illinois Leathernecks
Western Illinois enters the weekend with a record of 7-19 (4-5 Summit League). The Leathernecks dropped two of three games at Oral Roberts last weekend, falling 3-0 on Friday before a 5-2 win on Saturday and a 1-0 loss on Sunday. In non-conference play at SIUE on Tuesday, WIU dropped a 9-3 decision.

Head coach Ryan Brownlee is in his fifth season at WIU, carrying a career record of 78-157.

Friday marks the 25th meeting all-time between Omaha and Western Illinois, and the Mavericks lead the series, 17-7. The two teams last met May 15, 2016 in Macomb, Ill., where Omaha picked up a 14-0 shutout.

Binger Tabbed Summit League Player of the Week
Junior right-hander Corey Binger was named Summit League Pitcher of the Week for his performance March 27 - April 2, the conference office announced Monday.

Binger (3-4) earned his third career pitcher-of-the-week honor and his first this season after collecting his third win on the year last Friday. The Victoria, Minn., native hurled a complete-game shutout over North Dakota State, issuing no walks with three strikeouts over seven innings and surrendering just two hits over seven innings.

The week before, Omaha swept the league's weekly awards on March 27, as sophomore Grant Suponchick was named Player of the Week and senior left-hander Sam Murphy was honored as Pitcher of the Week.

Leading the League
Freshman Cole Thibodeau ranks 13th nationally and leads the Summit League with seven sacrifice bunts. Junior Corey Binger leads all league pitchers for games started (seven), complete games (three), shutouts (one) and innings pitched (43.0), and senior Sam Murphy matches him for games started (seven). Murphy's strikeouts (20) and strikeouts per game (11.49) in conference play also leads the league.

As a team, Omaha is 13th in the country and the league's top squad for sac bunts (28).

Mission: Complete
Omaha's pitching staff threw four complete games last season, the most of any Maverick staff since 2011. This season, Maverick hurlers have combined for four already through games of April 2. Junior right-hander Corey Binger has three to his credit -- at Incarnate Word (March 5), at Fort Wayne (March 24) and vs. North Dakota State (March 31) -- and senior left-hander Sam Murphy has one -- at Fort Wayne (March 24).

Home Sweet Home
Omaha has a new home facility for the 2017 season, as the Mavericks play 19 of their 21 home games at J.J. Isaacson Field at Seymour Smith Park in partnership with the City of Omaha. UNO plays two more home games -- against in-state foes Nebraska and Creighton -- at Werner Park.

The City of Omaha has completed a variety of facility and field improvements at Seymour Smith Park in preparation for the coming season, including grading and sodding of a new playing surface, a new irrigation system and work on the mound, plate and warning track.

Suponchick vs. the Summit League
Sophomore Grant Suponchick has batted a team-leading .444 against Summit League competition over the last three weekends, up from .192 in non-conference games. In those nine league games, the Papillion, Neb., native has posted two doubles, a home run, five runs scored, three RBI and four walks, and he owns a .630 slugging percentage and a .516 on-base percentage.

On April 2 vs. North Dakota State, Suponchick also took the mound in relief, throwing 4.0 innings of hitless, shutout ball with two walks and three strikeouts.

Palensky Makes the Move to Short
After starting all 56 games at second base as a junior, senior Sam Palensky made the switch to shortstop for his 2017 campaign and has had the starting nod there in all 28 games. Offensively, the Papillion, Neb., native owns six multi-hit performances -- second-most on the team -- and has reached base in 19 straight contests, which leads the Mavericks.

Palensky is following in the steps of his older brother, Caleb, a four-year starting infielder from 2011-14.

More on Mallott
Sophomore Nate Mallott made his Maverick debut Feb. 17 vs. UNLV and has served as Omaha's starting catcher in all but five games. The transfer from Scottsdale CC hit .375 on opening weekend at the UNLV Classic, bolstered by a 1-for-2 showing with a run scored vs. Saint Mary's and a 2-for-3 night with a run scored against UNLV on Feb. 19.

Over the first three weekends of Summit League play, Mallott has hit .333 and driven in six runs, up from .195 with three RBI in non-conference games. On March 31 vs. North Dakota State, he was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate and drove in three runs, which marked his first multi-RBI performance as a Maverick.

A "Cole-giate" Debut
Freshman Cole Thibodeau started all four games of the opening weekend at the UNLV Classic, making his collegiate debut in the Friday game as Omaha's starting right fielder. The Elkhorn, Neb., native also played second base over the next three games that weekend, as well as a relief appearance on the mound. It marked the second straight year Omaha has had a true freshman in its opening day lineup, as sophomore Riley Herold was also an opening day starter in 2016.

In league play, Thibodeau has hit .314 in nine starts, tallying two doubles, seven runs scored and an RBI with three walks.

On March 15, Thibodeau went a perfect 3-for-3 on the basepaths at K-State. Previously, the last Maverick to register three stolen bases in a game had been Cole Gruber, who achieved it three times in 2016.

Murph on the Mound
Left-handed pitcher Sam Murphy is the veteran of the Omaha's pitching staff, as the fifth-year senior is the Mavericks' active career leader for appearances (56), innings pitched (154.2) and strikeouts (142). Murphy was named Summit League Pitcher of the Week for the second time in his career on March 27 after throwing a seven-inning complete game for his first win of the season, shuttering a career-high 16 batters. The mark set Omaha's Division I record and was the most single-game strikeouts since Joe Holtmeyer in 2010.

Last year, the Lake Worth, Fla., native went 4-6 with one save and a 3.86 ERA and held his opponents to a .254 average. Murphy returned to the mound for the first time in nearly a year on Feb. 20, 2016 after being previously been sidelined since early in the 2015 season due to a broken hand.

Binger Goes the Distance
Junior right-handed pitcher Corey Binger tossed his third complete game of the year for the win against North Dakota State last Friday. He shut out the Bison, issuing no walks with three strikeouts and surrendering just two hits over seven innings. The week before at Fort Wayne (March 24), Binger allowed one run on eight hits and a walk with a career-high eight strikeouts. Over his last three outings, he has allowed just one walk to 13 strikeouts.

In 2016, Binger served as Omaha's Sunday starter, going 8-3 with a 4.06 ERA. The Victoria, Minn., native threw the second-most innings on the team (75.1) and was a two-time Summit League Pitcher of the Week. Binger issued 51 strikeouts to 19 walks and held his opponents to a .269 batting average, all while ranking third in the league for wins.

2017 Slate Takes Mavericks Around the Nation
Omaha’s 2017 schedule includes 55 games, and the team will play in 12 states against schools from 10 other Division I conferences. Four opponents – Louisville, Nebraska, Saint Mary's and Oral Roberts – played in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Entering the season, the Mavericks had never faced two of their opponents in Saint Mary's and Louisville. Omaha holds a combined all-time record of 259-300 over all teams on the regular-season slate.

Porter Enters First Season as Head Coach
Head coach Evan Porter enters his first year as the skipper of the Omaha baseball program in 2017 after serving four years as an assistant coach. One of the most decorated players in UNO history, Porter was four-year starter at shortstop from 2005-09 and a two-time All-American. He was also a three-time all-region selection from 2007-09, earning awards from Daktronics and Rawlings/ABCA. Additionally, Porter was a two-time All-NCC pick (2007-08) and was first-team All-MIAA in 2009.

Porter's name runs through the Omaha record books, as he remains the program's all-time leader in games played (239), at-bats (869), hits (323), doubles (75), home runs (43), runs batted in (249) and total bases (527). His 97 hits recorded as a senior were a UNO single-season record that still stands.

A member of the UNO squad that earned a berth to the 2007 NCAA Division II College World Series, Porter was part of two Maverick teams (2006, 2008) that set a school record with 45 wins. During his time, UNO made four straight NCAA regional appearances and won the 2008 NCC championship.

Following his senior campaign, Porter was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 23rd round. He has played professionally overseas for the Solingen Alligators in Germany (2010), Gothenburg Sharks in Sweden (2011), Victoria Park Reds in Australia (2011-12), ADO AamigoO Lakers in Holland (2012) and Sölvesborg Firehawks in Sweden (2014, 2016).

Porter is assisted by assistant coach Chris Gadsden, in his 18th year, and pitching coach Brian Strawn, in his second year, as well as volunteer assistant coach Brett Swain, who is in his first year.

Up Next
Omaha returns to action on Friday, April 14, hosting Oral Roberts. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. at Seymour Smith Park, and links to live stats and audio will be available on OMavs.com.

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