Bowling Green, Ky. — Four home runs — including a pair of grand slams by Chad Cregar and Matt Hightower — helped key the Western Kentucky University baseball team to a 20-10 win over Youngstown State Saturday at Nick Denes Field in game one of a doubleheader. The Hilltoppers completed the sweep with a 5-2 win in the nightcap.
WKU improved to 13-10 on the year with the sweep, while the Penguins dropped to 5-14. The two teams will wrap up the weekend series with a 1 p.m. (CDT) game on Sunday.
WKU combined for 17 runs from the second through the fifth inning of game one, sending 10 men to the plate in both the second and the third. All five of the Hilltopper runs in the second inning came with two outs, and was sparked by a bases-clearing double by Matt Payton that gave WKU a 3-1 lead. Scott Kaskie followed with a run-scoring triple, and came in on a Hightower single to push the lead to 5-1.
After two Penguin runs in the top of the third, the Toppers kept on the pressure with six more runs in the bottom of the inning. Terrence Dayleg led off the inning with a single, and scored the first run of the inning thanks to a pair of wild pitches from YSU reliever Cody Dearth. One out later, J.B. Paxson hit a solo home run to push the lead to 7-3. Payton started another two-out rally with a single before Kaskie was hit by a pitch and Hightower walked to load the bases. Cregar followed with the first grand slam of his career just inside the pole to right to stretch the WKU advantage to 11-3.
Hightower matched Cregar in bottom of the fourth as his grand slam hit the foul pole in right as the lead went to 15-3. Payton drove in two more runs with a single in the fifth — again with two away in the inning — to stretch the advantage to 14 runs. Rye Davis delivered a two-run single in the seventh, and Wade Gaynor led off the eighth with a solo home run to give WKU a 20-3 lead.
Youngstown State made things interesting in the top of the ninth, sending 13 men to the plate and scoring seven runs. The Penguins recorded just two hits in the inning, but took advantage of five walks and three hit batters before Cory Hornyak lined out to end the game.
Dayleg and Payton each posted three hits to lead WKU’s 18-hit attack, with Hightower, Cregar and Jake Wells finishing with two hits each. Payton and Hightower both finished with a career-high five RBI. Erich Diedrich finished with three hits to lead YSU, while Joe Iacobucci added a pair of hits and two RBI.
Bart Carter (2-3) got the win in game one as he went a season-long 7.0 innings, allowing just two earned runs on seven hits, while striking out six. Penguin starter Lucas Engle (0-4) suffered the loss as he gave up five runs in 2.0 innings.
It was a different scenario in game two as both starting pitchers went deep in the game as the Hilltoppers picked up the three-run victory.
WKU got on the board early again in game two as Matt Bracken singled home Wells in the second inning to drive in the first run of the game. Starter Matt Ridings blanked the Penguins on just one hit through the first five inning before allowing a solo home run to Josh Page in the top of the sixth.
Just before that homer, the Toppers gave Ridings three more runs of support thanks to three doubles in the bottom of the fifth. Paxson led off the inning with his second of three two-baggers in the game, then came home to score when a sacrifice bunt attempt by Bracken was thrown away by YSU starter Chuck Schiffhauer. Bracken then came home to score on a Kaskie double, and Cregar doubled him home with two outs for the fifth run of the game for WKU.
After the Page home run, Paxson led off the bottom of the sixth with a double, then scored on a Bracken single to extend the Topper lead back to four runs at 5-1.
Ridings ran into trouble in the eighth as the Penguins loaded the bases with nobody out before Sean Lucus singled home a run to make it a 5-2 game. That ended the day for Ridings as he gave way to Garrie Krueger with the potential go-ahead run at the plate. However, Krueger struck out Erich Diedrich and got Iacobucci to ground into a double play to end the Youngstown threat.
Krueger then pitched a perfect ninth to record his first save of the season. Ridings (5-1) earned the win in the finale as he allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out six.
Paxson finished game two with three of WKU’s nine hits, with Bracken with two RBI for the first time in his young Hilltopper career.