BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - The magic for the WKU baseball team at Bowling Green Ballpark continued Tuesday night, as the Hilltoppers used a ninth-inning single from Regan Flaherty to secure a 6-5 win over eighth-ranked Louisville in front of 2,370 fans at Bowling Green Ballpark, home of the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The win moved WKU to 5-0 all-time in regular season games at the downtown Bowling Green venue, with all five wins coming over Louisville and Kentucky.
WKU’s win over the eighth-ranked Cardinals gave the Hilltoppers their second win over a top 10 team this season, as WKU defeated then-No. 8 Kentucky back on March 19 in Lexington. With the win, it marked the first time since the 2005 season that WKU has knocked off two top-25 teams in the same season, and is first time in recent memory that the Hilltoppers have knocked off two top-10 teams in the same season.
The win over Louisville was WKU’s third-straight at Bowling Green Ballpark, as the Cardinals have been ranked all three times the Hilltoppers have won at the venue. Tuesday’s win also marked the first time since the 2006 season that WKU has defeated Kentucky on the road and Louisville at home in the same season.
The offense for WKU on Tuesday was supplied mainly in the fourth inning, as the Hilltoppers took the lead on a two-run home run from slugger Ryan Huck to give WKU a 2-1 lead. With two outs in the inning, Ryan Messex would reach on an error, and that would prove costly, as Blake Crabtree would belt his second career home run, giving the Hilltoppers a 4-1 lead after four innings. The two home runs upped WKU’s total to 10 home runs hit at Bowling Green Ballpark in the five games played.
Huck’s blast was his 10th of the season, as he came into the game tied for 10th in the nation in home runs. It was the 27th home run of Huck’s career, as he moves just five home runs away from moving into the top 10 in WKU history for career home runs. For Crabtree, the home run was his first since the 2010 season, and marked his second two-RBI game of the season.
After back-to-back scoreless innings, Louisville would begin to mount its comeback in the seventh. Louisville loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the seventh trailing 4-1, but could only scratch across a pair of runs, as reliever Jake Thompson got a pop out, then Ian Tompkins picked up a pair of groundouts to get out of the inning with the 4-3 lead.
The Cardinals would threaten again in the eighth, putting the tying run 90 feet away, but reliever Taylor Haydel would get a groundout to second baseman Steve Hodgins to escape the jam and hold the 4-3 lead for WKU.
The Hilltoppers would pad their lead in the eighth, as Scott Wilcox drew a leadoff walk, advanced to third on an error by the pitcher, then scored on a wild pitch to give WKU a 5-3 lead heading into the ninth inning, which would prove to be crucial. Trailing by two in the top of the ninth, Louisville would tie the game on a two-run blast from Cole Sturgeon, his first home run of the 2013 season.
With the game tied at five, WKU would get the first three runners of the ninth inning on base with a pair of errors, an infield single and an intentional walk. However, Louisville would get back-to-back strikeouts to set up the bases loaded, two outs situation for Regan Flaherty. Flaherty would send a single to right field off of Louisville closer Nick Burdi, which gave Flaherty his second walk-off single of the season.
Hilltopper starter Austin Clay worked five innings, allowing just one run, while striking out two. In the last two games at Bowling Green Ballpark against Louisville, WKU starters Ian Tompkins and Austin Clay have combined to work 11.0 innings, allowing just two earned runs.
Freshman Josh Bartley (2-0) picked up the win in relief, as both of his wins on the season have come against Kentucky and Louisville.
The crowd of 2,370 marked the fifth time in five games that at least 2,300 fans have come out to Bowling Green Ballpark to watch a regular season game. In the five games, WKU is averaging over 3,700 fans. The game is the first of two contests at Bowling Green Ballpark this season, as the Hilltoppers will host Kentucky on April 23.