Brendan Girton got the Red Raiders started on the mound in their second series of the season. Gage Harrelson took to right field in place of Owen Washburn and Dillon Carter got his first start of the season back in center field. Girton gave up 3 hits and 2 runs in the first half of inning one, which is more than he gave up in 6 innings last week. Wild pitches and walks plagued the Leathernecks early allowing Tech to get a run across in the bottom of the first and cut their lead in half at 2-1. After a scoreless top of the second from Wester Illinois the Red Raiders battled back to take the lead 3-2.
Red Raiders continued to score in the third with a solo home run from Austin Green, his second home run of the season, moving the count to 4-2. The Leathernecks were able to get another run across on Girton in the top of the fifth but the Red Raiders answered in their half of the inning to bring the score to 5-3. After strong innings in relief from both Andrew Devine and Josh Sanders the Red Raiders controlled the offense for the remainder of game one, going up 11-3 after the end of the 8th inning. True Freshman Jacob Rogers closed out game one in his first appearance on the mound for the Red Raiders, recording his first collegiate strikeout and allowing no hits and no walks.
Game two brought out Mason Molina to start the first game of the Saturday doubleheader. The Red Raiders got the scoring started in the bottom of the first inning, Gage Harrelson showed off his speed again by beating out a bunt in his first at-bat of the day. Harrelson then stole both second and third on a wild pitch. Kevin Bazzell scored the first run with an RBI double and advanced to 3rd on another wild pitch. A sacrifice fly from Austin Green put the Red Raiders up 2-0. The Red Raiders were able to capitalize off errors and miscommunication from the Leathernecks in the 2nd inning leading 7-0, before two runs, including a solo home run from Western Illinois, came across in the third and fourth innings to bring the score to 7-2. The Red Raiders got into a bit of trouble come the 5th inning, the errors and miscommunications that Western Illinois had been fighting all game found their way to the Red Raiders. The gap closed to 7-6 before getting out of the top of the fifth inning.
The issues on the defensive end in the top of the fifth did little to stifle Tech’s bats on the offensive end, all four runs that got across for the Leathernecks were answered by the Red Raiders in their half of the inning. The Leathernecks plated just three more runs in the remaining innings, but the Red Raiders dominated offensively, plating 17 more runs to win the game 24-9. By the end of game two, every Red Raider in the starting lineup had at least one RBI on the game, Dillon Carter had reached base 6 times, including a solo home run, Gavin Kash went four straight innings with a hit, including two home runs, to put it bluntly, the Red Raiders were an offensive powerhouse from top to bottom in game two.
True freshman Taber Fast got the start for the Red Raiders in game two of the Saturday doubleheader and game three of the overall series. Game three was vastly different from game two for both teams, pitching and defense seemed to take off more than the bats did for both the Red Raiders and the Leathernecks. Western Illinois got the scoring started in the first inning getting two across and the Red Raiders answered those two runs in the bottom of the second. Neither team scored again until the Leatherbacks took the lead back in the top of the fifth just to have the Red Raiders tie the game back up at 4-4 in their half of the inning. Quick scoreless innings for both teams proceeded until the bottom of the 8th when the Red Raiders pushed two more runners across to take the lead back 6-4, only escaping the top of the 9th and taking game three 6-5.
Kyle Robinson was back on the mound for the Red Raiders for Game four and got quick outs and a strike-out away to open the series’ final game. The Leatherbacks got the scoring for the day started once again this time in the top of the second. Early walks and stolen bases in the inning come back to bite the Red Raiders as 4 runs get across and make the game 0-4 early. The Red Raiders don’t respond until the bottom of the third when they were able to load the bases multiple times and bat completely through the lineup going through two different Wester Illinois relievers. The Red Raiders reclaimed the lead and some went up 8-4. Robinson pitched one more scoreless half-inning before the Red Raider offense lit up again in the bottom of the fourth, going through the lineup once again and pushing 5 more runs across to extend their lead 13-4. The Red Raiders and Leatherbacks each get another run across in the game’s final innings to make the final score 14-5 the Red Raiders taking the four-game sweep for the second weekend in a row.
Pitching had a bit of a harder time this series than last but that didn’t stop the Red Raiders from coming out on top. There was real strength seen in the relief pitchers this weekend, with Andrew Devine, Trendan Parish, and Bandon Beckel having particularly solid outings. Dillon Carter is the standout player in this series, after not starting against Gonzaga Carter came back to go 9-14 from the plate with two home runs, two doubles, a triple, three walks, seven RBI, and seven runs. In game two Carter reached base every single time he took the plate and in game four he caught the ball that would turn the double play to end the game and secure the sweep. Like last weekend only one game of four was without a Red Raider error (1-5-0-2), but this team continues to impress despite the errors they are still seeing. Hudson White appears to have found his swing much earlier than he did last season, Gage Harrelson continues to show almost no signs of his youth, and Nolen Hester has proven to have an incredible eye at the plate making it through two series and 7 games without a single strikeout. Before the season began I said that one word to describe this team was potential, now I believe that word is Impressive.