New Orleans, La. — New Orleans hit home runs in three consecutive innings late in the game, and held off a late rally by the Western Kentucky University baseball team to take a second straight game from the Hilltoppers with a 5-3 win Saturday afternoon at Masetri Field.
The loss was the fourth straight for WKU as it fell to 18-16 and 6-8 in the Sun Belt Conference. The Privateers moved to 22-10 and 7-6 in the league.
After a first-inning run by the Privateers, but UNO starter Bryan Cryer and Hilltopper hurler Matt Ridings matched scoreless inning from the second through the fifth. In fact, Cryer limited WKU to just one hit and two base runners through the first 6.1 innings of the game.
The first New Orleans run of the afternoon came when Ryan Eden led off the first inning with a walk and moved to second on a Joey Butler groundout. After a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly by T.J. Baxter chased home the first run of the game for the Privateers.
After the first inning, Ridings allowed just one runner to reach second base over the next four innings. However, he ran into some trouble again in the sixth when Johnny Giavotella reached on a one-out double. After recording the second out of the inning, Nick Schwaner homered over the wall in right to stretch the UNO lead to 3-0.
WKU finally got on the board against Cryer in the seventh inning when Chad Cregar hit his 12th home run over the wall in right — just the second Hilltopper hit of the afternoon — to cut the Privateer lead to 3-1. But Michael Knipper led off the bottom of the seventh with a home run of his own to again give UNO a three-run advantage.
That proved big as the Toppers were able to get to reliever David Burch in the top of the eighth. After a leadoff walk to Jeremy Coleman, Matt Payton was hit by a pitch to bring the tying run to the plate. However, Burch retired the next two batters before giving up a two-run triple to Terrence Dayleg to cut the UNO lead to 4-3. With the trying run 90 feet away, Ryan O’Shea came out of the Privateer bullpen and struck out Cregar to end the inning and preserve the one-run lead.
UNO added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning when Josh Vander Hey hit a two-out solo home run to stretch the lead to 5-3. O’Shea then retired the Hilltoppers in order in the ninth to record his second save in as many days.
WKU finished the day with just four hits, with Dayleg driving in a pair to give him six RBI for the weekend. Baxter, Giavotella and Knipper each had two hits to lead UNO, with Schwaner finishing with a pair of RBI.
Cryer (7-1) picked up the win as he allowed just one run on three hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings. Ridings (6-2) suffered the loss, allowing four runs and giving up nine hits in 6.2 innings of work.
The Toppers will look to avoid the series sweep on Sunday as they play the finale against the Privateers at 1 p.m. (CDT).