INA, Ill. — Spencer Drake threw seven shutout innings and Matt Geislinger added two perfect innings out of the bullpen as Wabash Valley took the opening game of a showdown GRAC series with Rend Lake, 5-0.
The Warriors, now 16-3 in the league, increased their lead over Rend Lake (14-5) to two full games with five conference games remaining for both teams.
Saturday is turning into a make-or-break day for Rend Lake, as they come to Mt. Carmel to finish the series with a noon doubleheader.
Drake, the ace of the staff, scattered six hits over seven innings to improve to 9-0 on the season. The Cincinnati commit struck out five and did not walk anyone, lowering his ERA to 1.03 in a marquee matchup of undefeated hurlers. Brandon George went the distance for Rend Lake, absorbing his first loss of the season after seven wins.
Warrior manager Rob Fournier then went with lefthander Geislinger in the eighth, further confounding Rend Lake hitters. He struck out two and did not allow a base runner in his two innings of work.
Though the hits were even at 6-6, WVC (37-10 overall) made the most of theirs, scoring all five runs in the third.
Cole Gleason was 2-of-3 at the plate and drove home two runs. The 6-foot sophomore from Mesa, Ariz. is the triple crown leader of the ball club, tops in home runs (7), RBIs (59) and batting average (.404).
Conor Dishman picked up one RBI as well. Edgar Figueroa had three hits.
A sweep of the doubleheader on Saturday would clinch the GRAC title for Wabash Valley, regardless of how they fare in the final league series of the season next week against Southwestern. Rend Lake (31-14) closes with John A. Logan.
• WVC moved up to 15th in the latest NJCAA Division I baseball poll. Winners of five straight and 13 of their last 14, the Warriors moved up three notches from 18th.
There were plenty of changes since the last poll was issued two weeks earlier. Crowder, Mo. (34-10) fell out of the top spot, tumbling all the way to sixth. The Roughriders were replaced at the top by Tallahassee, Fla. (42-8).
The biggest mover was Cochise, Ariz. (41-11). Unranked two weeks ago, the Apaches moved all the way to 10th place in the top 20 poll.
Wabash was the only GRAC team to receive votes in the poll.