BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU sophomore pitcher Josh Bartley threw eight strong innings and freshman Hunter Wood smacked a pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning Saturday in route to 7-2, series-knotting victory over South Alabama (17-21, 7-9) at Nick Denes Field.
The Hilltoppers (20-19, 8-9 SBC) trailed 2-1 through seven innings but a two-run single from junior designated hitter Philip Diedrick and Wood’s grand slam sparked WKU’s six-run eighth inning. With WKU leading 3-2 following Diedrick’s go-ahead single, Wood pinch hit for fellow rookie Clint Hardy and cleared the bases with his first-career home run. His grand slam was WKU’s second of 2014, both of which have come in WKU’s last two home Sun Belt Conference series.
After surrendering two runs in the first inning, Bartley locked down and only allowed two runners to enter scoring position in the next seven innings. He finished with a career-long eight innings pitched and picked up his first-career Sun Belt victory to improve to 4-3 on the year. Bartley scattered seven hits and struck out four in his duel with South Alabama’s Kevin Hill.
Hill had the Hilltoppers’ number through six innings but WKU jumped on him during the seventh, using an RBI single from Hardy to trim the Jaguars’ lead to 2-1. Senior Scott Wilcox singled to lead off the eighth inning while junior Ryan Church and sophomore Anderson Miller laid down perfect bunt singles to load the bases with no outs. That set the stage for Diedrick, who ripped a hot shot up the middle to score Wilcox and Church.
Senior outfielder David Simmons, who tied a career high with three hits and two doubles, drew a walk from South Alabama reliever Matt Peacock to re-load the bases in the eighth. Wood’s four-run blast gave WKU a 7-2 cushion entering the ninth, where closer Ian Tompkins shut down the Jaguars in order to preserve the win.
Hill took the loss for South Alabama as WKU pounded out 11 hits off the powerful righty. Simmons finished 3-of-3 with two runs scored, Diedrick was 2-of-4 with a pair of RBI and Wood tallied a career-high four RBI on his pinch-hit grand slam.
The win pushed WKU a half-game ahead of South Alabama in the league standings. The Hilltoppers and Jaguars will play a rubber match for the series Sunday beginning at 1 p.m. It will be Fun Day at Nick Denes Field as all children ages 12 and under receive free admission and the opportunity to run the bases postgame. There will also be $2 drink specials on the party decks Sunday afternoon.
For tickets and more information on WKU Baseball, call 1-800-5 BIGRED or visit WKUSports.com.