The Omaha baseball team secured its second straight Summit League regular-season championship on Friday, taking down Western Illinois in a doubleheader sweep, 3-0 and 7-1, at Boyer Stadium. In just their third year of Division I play and their second as a member of the Summit League, the Mavericks claimed the 2014 title outright for back-to-back conference championships.
Pitching was the key for Omaha, as senior lefty Steven Schoonover threw a complete-game shutout in game one and junior righty Zach Williamsen held Western Illinois to just one run and five hits in his outing.
Offensively, sophomore Alex Schultz went a combined 4-for-7 in the doubleheader, scoring twice and driving in another run. Senior Caleb Palensky also scored three times and had three RBI.
With the win, the Mavericks improved to 30-20 (14-9 Summit League) for the season, while the Leathernecks dropped to 19-29 (11-12 Summit League). Although it has locked up the conference crown, Omaha is ineligible for the 2014 Summit League Tournament due to its status as a reclassifying Division I program.
GAME 1 -- OMAHA 3, WESTERN ILLINOIS 0
Schoonover (3-2) threw the complete-game shutout in the early game, allowing seven hits with no walks and a strikeout over 7.0 innings. Tom Constand (2-8) took the loss, giving up three runs -- two earned -- on six hits. He also threw a complete game, striking out six with no free passes.
Sophomore Alex Schultz led the way with a 2-for-3 effort at the plate while tallying a run scored. Senior Caleb Palensky and junior Daniel Jewett each had one hit and a run scored, and junior Justin Threlkeld had a hit and drove in a pair of runs.
It was a battle from the start, and Western Illinois got a leadoff hit in five out of seven innings. UNO kept the Leathernecks at bay, though, preventing WIU from scoring a single run in the first contest.
Omaha finally took a 2-0 lead in the fifth with Threlkeld's two-out, two-run single up the middle that plated Schultz and Jewett. The Mavericks added an insurance run in the seventh as Palensky led off with a single to right center and later crossed unearned with a sacrifice bunt by senior Tyler Splichal, pushing the score to 3-0.
GAME 2 – OMAHA 7, WESTERN ILLINOIS 1
In game two, Williamsen (3-3) delivered another strong Maverick pitching performance, limiting the Leathernecks to one run on five hits. Williamsen threw 5.2 innings, striking out four with no walks. Senior Dylan Casey earned his first save of the season, holding Western scoreless over the final 3.1 innings on two hits and a walk with a strikeout.
The loss went to WIU starter John White (2-5), who surrendered seven runs -- five earned -- seven hits and three walks while fanning three.
Palensky had a hit, two runs scored and three more driven in in game two, highlighted by his three-run double in the eighth that spurred the Mavericks to a five-run inning.
Schultz had another pair of hits, going 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, while sophomore Collin Leif was 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI of his own.
Western Illinois scored first in the bottom of the first inning when Tanner Glore singled through the right side to score Zack Burling.
The home squad's lead was short-lived, however, as Omaha rallied in the second inning with a pair of runs on three hits. Palensky led off the inning with a walk, went to second on a Schultz groundout and then scored on Jewett's RBI single up the middle. Jewett was later driven in with Leif's single through the left side, putting Omaha ahead 2-1.
Leading by just one, Omaha broke the game open in the eighth. The Mavs loaded the bases with a Leif single, an intentional walk of Taylor and senior Brett Bass reaching on a fielding error. As quickly as the Mavericks loaded the bases, Palensky managed to clear them, delivering a three-run double down the right field line to turn a one-run ballgame into a 5-1 differential. Schultz then drove in Palensky on the next at-bat, coming up with an RBI single up the middle to push it to 6-1. UNO's final run came with Schultz scoring unearned as Jewett reached base on a Leatherneck throwing error, bringing the final tally to 7-1.