January 22, 2020
Does the cold and snow have you down? Well here’s a thought to warm you up: baseball is just around the corner! That’s right, in just about 20 days, Major League pitchers and catchers report to spring training. That’s not even the most exciting news. Just four days after that, the Western Illinois Leatherneck baseball season kicks off.
This past Sunday (Jan. 19), Western Illinois baseball coach Andy Pascoe, who enters his first season at the helm after a stint as an assistant coach at Butler, announced the schedule which is highlighted by matchups against two different SEC teams. Last season, the Leathernecks recorded the most Summit League victories in team history (16), capping off a 22-31 season that saw the team make their third consecutive Summit League Championship. The Purple and Gold begin a three game series to start off the season against the Tennessee Volunteers on Feb. 14 in Knoxville. Last season, the Volunteers etched a 40-21 season record including an impressive 27-9 home record. Tennessee’s season was highlighted by a trip to the Chapel Hill regional, a trip that saw the Volunteers’ season end after a 5-2 loss to the Tar Heels of North Carolina.
The following weekend, the Leathernecks travel to the Jackie Robinson Tournament. Western closes out their road series’ with back to back weekends against Tigers, the first in Memphis followed up by the ones in Missouri.
The Leathernecks travel home to Alfred D. Boyer Stadium for the first time on Tuesday, Mar. 10 when they face off against the Clarke Pride. Last season the Purple and Gold were able to dominate while at home, scoring 12 wins compared to just seven losses.
Western Illinois opens conference play with a weekend series beginning Friday, Mar. 13 against the Mastodons of Purdue Fort Wayne. Western was able to handle the Mastodons last season as the Leathernecks went 5-1 against the team. Three times on the season last year, a game between the two teams ended before nine innings due to Western being up by 10 runs or more (seven innings twice and eight innings once). Fort Wayne looks to avenge a 7-45 overall (2-28 conference) record from their 2019 campaign, a record that earned them dead last in The Summit League.
The following weekend, the Leathernecks play host to the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits were one game away from tying the eventual 2019 Summit League regular season champions Omaha Mavericks for the top spot. SDSU finished the season with a 28-22 season (19-10 conference) record, beating Western four of their six meetings last season.
For the third straight weekend in a row, the Leathernecks will once again host a Summit League rival as they face the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles Mar. 27-29. The Leathernecks had the Golden Eagles’ number last season as Western would not only sweep Oral Roberts at Alfred D. Boyer Stadium, but would head to Tulsa and take two of three on the road. The Golden Eagles look to improve from a 29-26 (17-12) season which saw them take third in The Summit League Standings.
The final conference homestands of the season take place Apr. 10-12 against North Dakota State, and May 8-10 against reigning Summit League Champions Omaha. Regarding the 2020 season, coach Pascoe told GoLeathernecks.com, “We are excited about this spring’s schedule as it will be a challenging one for our guys, especially early. Going on the road to two SEC schools and an AAC schedule will prepare our guys for the challenging conference schedule. We will also get an opportunity to go down to the Jackie Robinson classic to play against quality teams, including last year’s SWAC champions. These early tests will tell us a lot about our team, while giving us an opportunity to play in front of some of the best baseball crowds in the country.” Twitter: @DavidKoier