Bowling Green, Ky. — Matt Ridings allowed just one unearned run over six innings and struck out eight, and Chad Cregar had two hits — including a home run — and four RBI in his debut as the Western Kentucky University baseball team opened the 2008 season with an 11-4 win over Bowling Green State Friday afternoon at Nick Denes Field.
“This was a pretty solid opening day for us. It gave us the opportunity to get a lot of young guys in the game and get their feet wet here early in the season,” said Hilltopper head coach Chris Finwood. “Matt didn’t really have his best stuff early in the game, but he battled for us. And top to bottom I liked what I saw from our hitters — especially hitting with two outs and runners in scoring position.”
Bowling Green starter Nick Cantrell was perfect through the first 2.2 innings, but committed a costly error in the bottom of the third. After retiring the first eight Hilltopper batters, Cantrell threw away a bunt off the bat of Matt Payton to keep the WKU third inning alive. After a balk moved Payton to third, Scott Kaskie walked and stole second to put a pair in scoring position. Matt Hightower drove in a pair with a single, and moved to second on the throw. Hightower came around to score on a Terrence Dayleg double, and Cregar drove home the fourth and final unearned run of the inning to put the Toppers in front 4-0.
WKU jumped out on Contrell again in the fourth when Jake Wells and J.B. Paxson led off the inning with back-to-back singles. After both runners advanced on a two-out groundout by Payton, Wells came home to score on a wild pitch, and Kaskie singled home Paxson to stretch the Hilltopper lead to 6-0.
Cantrell (0-1) struck out four Hilltoppers in his 3.2 innings, giving up six hits and allowing six runs — only two of which were earned.
Ridings (1-0) worked out of jams in each of the first two innings, but settled in to allow just a pair of hits in the third, fourth and fifth innings. After blanking the Falcons through his first five innings, but saw the shutout end in his final inning of work. After a two-out walk to Brandon McFarland, Derek Spencer singled to put runners at the corners. Travis Owens then hit a fly ball into shallow center that was dropped by Well as McFarland came home to score the first run of the game.
In all, Ridings allowed just five BGSU hits over his six innings.
The Hilltoppers got that run back right away in the bottom of the sixth when Paxson tripled, then scored when Payton was able to get in a run down before eventually being picked off with two outs in the inning. Cregar delivered the big blow in the seventh as he smashed a three-run home run to right to stretch the Hilltopper lead to 10-1. The Hilltoppers added their final run of the game in the eighth inning when Adam Rusnock delivered a pinch-hit double that drove in Kaskie with the 11th run of the game for WKU.
The Falcons threatened again in the seventh as the first two batters of the inning reach off reliever Travis Adams, and Garrie Krueger walked pinch hitter David Borcherdt to load the bases. However, Krueger was able to coax a pair of popups before striking out T.J. Blanton to end the threat and leave the bases loaded.
BGSU finally broke through in the ninth as Rye Davis allowed the first four batters to reach, surrendering the first run of the inning on a bases-loaded balk. A Marty Baird sacrifice fly and a Borcherdt single drove home the other two runs before Davis was able to get Ryan Schlater to ground out and end the game.
WKU collected 12 hits in the contest, with Kaskie, Hightower, Dayleg, Cregar and Paxson picking up two hits each. Hightower also drove in a pair. Ryan Shay and Spencer each had two hits for the Falcons.
The two teams will square off again on Saturday at 2 p.m. (CST) before wrapping up the weekend series with a 1 p.m. game on Sunday.