New Orleans, La. — J.B. Paxson collected a career-high four hits, and drove in six run Sunday as the Western Kentucky University baseball team rallied late and held on for a 13-12 win over New Orleans Sunday afternoon at Maestri Field.
The win ended a four-game losing skid for WKU as it improved to 19-15 and 7-8 in the Sun Belt Conference. The Privateers fell to 22-11 and 7-7 in the league.
WKU took advantage of four Privateer errors in the first three innings to score nine unearned runs. The Hilltoppers wasted little time getting on the board as they loaded the bases with two outs against Privateer starter Stephen Whalen. A walk to Jake Wells forced home the first run of the day. Paxson followed with an opposite-field grand slam to right to put the Toppers in front 5-0.
UNO committed two more errors in the third with one out that opened the door for another big inning. Paxson drove home another run with a double before a Matt Bracken groundout chased home Wells with the seventh run of the game. Scott Kaskie then drove home two more with a triple that took a hop over Ryan Eden’s head in center.
After the Privateers scored a run in each of their first two at bats, they used a seven-run fourth to pull even. Nick Schwaner got things started with a leadoff home run. In fact, the first nine batters of the inning reached base for UNO. A Josh Vander Hey single drove in Joey Butler to tie the game with still nobody out in the inning, but Vander Hey was thrown out at second on the play for the first out of the inning. Rye Davis then came out of the bullpen to strike out the next two batters and keep it a tie game at 9-9.
UNO took its first lead of the game an inning later as Michael Knipper led off the frame with a solo home run. That lead held until the top of the seventh when Paxson drove in his sixth run of the game with a single that brought home Wells to even things up at 10-10.
Again the Privateers responded when a Jay Morris single in the bottom of the inning moved them back in front by a run. A leadoff triple by Matt Hightower in the top of the eight got things started for WKU as Chad Cregar moved the Toppers back in front with his 13th home run of the year — and second in as many days — to make it a 12-11 game.
Paxson picked up his fourth hit of the day to lead off the ninth, and scored when Drew Morgan singled to right to push the Topper lead to 13-11.
The Privateers did not go away quietly in the ninth as a one-out walk to Knipper and a single by Jay Morris brought the potential winning run to the plate. Eden followed with a double to the wall in left-center to make it a 13-12 game with one out before Bryce Jenney struck out Butler for the second out of the inning. After a walk to T.J. Baxter that loaded the bases, Jenney got Johnny Giavotella to fly out to center, ending the game.
Jenney pitched the final two inning, allowing one run on two hits and striking out a pair to earn his first career save. Adam Balcom (2-0) got the win with a scoreless inning of relief, while Jake Henderson (2-1) took the loss out of the Privateer bullpen.
Hightower and Cregar each had two hits to join Paxson with a multi-hit game, while Cregar and Kaskie also finished with a pair of RBI. Eden, Butler, Knipper and Morris each had three hits for UNO.
The Hilltoppers return home to open a six-game homestand Tuesday when they host Evansville at 6 p.m. (CDT) at Nick Denes Field.