New Orleans, La. — New Orleans and the Western Kentucky University baseball team combined for 21 runs and 28 hits on Friday night at Maestri Field, but it was a four-run seventh inning by the Privateers that led them to an 11-10 win in the opening game of a three-game Sun Belt Conference series.
The loss was the third straight for WKU as it fell to 18-14 overall and 6-7 in the Sun Belt. UNO improved to 21-10 and 6-6 in the league.
WKU struck quickly as it plated four runs in the top of the first inning off UNO starter Justin Garcia. After Scott Kaskie and Matt Hightower started the game with singles to put runners at the corners, a groundball by Terrence Dayleg was thrown away on a potential double-play attempt as Kaskie came home with the first run. Chad Cregar followed with a two-run double, and came home to score on a Wade Gaynor two-bagger to give the Toppers an early 4-0 lead.
The Privateers came back with three runs in the bottom of the second, with the first run coming in to score on a Joey Butler sacrifice fly. After a two-out single by Jeff Lanning, Mark McGonigle doubled and came all the way around to score on a WKU throwing error to make it a 4-3 game. UNO was able to take the lead an inning later as T.J. Baxter and Johnny Giavotella started the inning with consecutive walks. A one-out single from Butler drove in Baxter to tie the game, and a Lanning groundout chased home Giavotella to put the Privateers in front 5-4.
The teams traded multi-run innings in the next three frames. After a leadoff single by J.B. Paxson and a one-out walk to Matt Payton in the fourth inning, a single by Kaskie drove home Paxson, and Payton came around to score on a throwing error to move WKU back in front 6-5. Dayleg followed with an RBI double to drive in Kaskie with the seventh Hilltopper run of the game.
Another leadoff walk cost WKU in the fifth as Baxter drew the free pass and moved to second on a Giavotella single. After a throwing error by Topper starter Bart Carter on a pick-off attempt put both runners in scoring position, Baxter scored on a Butler groundout, and Giavotella came home on a passed ball to tie the game at 7-7.
The Hilltoppers again jumped in front in the sixth as Payton led off the inning with a triple, and scored on a one-out Hightower single. Dayleg followed with a two-run home run to right to put WKU in front 10-7.
Butler continued to produce runs for UNO in the eighth as he tied the game with one swing of the bat in the seventh with a three-run homer to center the again evened things up at 10-10. After a walk to Lanning, reliever Adam Balcom came in and recorded a strikeout for the second out of the inning. Michael Knipper then lifted a single to right as Lanning came all the way around to score and give the Privateers an 11-10 lead.
The Hilltoppers loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth inning, but Ryan O’Shea was able to strike out Kaskie to end the game and notch his sixth save of the season.
Dayleg led the Hilltoppers with a season-high four hits and four RBI, while Cregar also finished with three hits and drove in two runs. Butler accounted for six of UNO’s nine RBI on the day as he went 2-for-3 at the plate. Knipper led the Privateers with three hits.
Ben Paxton (0-1) suffered the loss in relief, while Jake Henderson (2-0) picked up the win with 1.2 scoreless innings in relief of Garcia.
The teams will continue their series with a 4 p.m. (CDT) first pitch on Saturday.