Bowling Green, Ky. — The Western Kentucky University baseball team pounded out 18 hits as the Hilltoppers picked up their 20th win of the season with an 11-3 win over Evansville Tuesday night at Nick Denes Field.
After falling behind early, the Hilltoppers (20-15) scored in five consecutive innings — including two four-run innings — to pull ahead. WKU got its first run of the night in the third when Matt Payton led off with a double and scored on a Terrence Dayleg groundout.
The fourth was the first of two big innings for WKU, and Chad Cregar got things started with a solo home run over the scoreboard in right-center. Two outs later, J.B. Paxson started a string of three straight singles that loaded the bases. Scott Kaskie then drew a free pass from Evansville starter Mark Obenchain to force in the second run of the inning and tie the game at 3-3. Dayleg then drove in two more runs with a single to give the Toppers their first lead of the game at 5-3.
Matt Rice drove in the sixth Hilltopper run of the game with a triple in the fifth inning that chased home Wade Gaynor to make it a 6-3 game. Payton started another big inning for WKU in the sixth with a single, then scored on a one-out Dayleg base hit. Cregar then homered for the second time in the game — his fourth two-home run game of the season — to give the Hilltoppers a 9-3 lead. After a Gaynor double kept the inning alive, Jake Wells brought him home with a single to get WKU into double figures.
Dayleg drove in his fifth run of the game in the seventh inning when his sacrifice fly brought in Payton with the 11th and final WKU run of the night.
The Hilltopper bullpen blanked the Purple Aces (6-28) over the final seven innings as five relievers combined to allow just four hits and strike out nine in 8.0 innings of work. All of Evansville’s runs came in the second inning as it loaded the bases with nobody out against WKU starter Drew O’Connell. Back-to-back walks to Ryan Fleming and Sean Loggins forced home the first two runs of the game, and Greg Wallace brought in the third run with a fielder’s choice to give the Aces a 3-0 lead before WKU scored 11 unanswered.
Ben Paxton (1-1) got the win in relief as he allowed just two hits and struck out three in 4.0 innings of work, while Oberchain (1-4) suffered the loss for Evansville.
All nine Hilltoppers started picked up hits, with Gaynor and Payton each having three hits to lead the 18-hit attack. Dayleg, Cregar and Rice each finished with a pair of hits. Derek Melton went 4-for-4 to lead the Purple Aces as he accounted for all but two of their hits.
The Hilltoppers return to action on Wednesday, hosting #23 Vanderbilt at 6 p.m. (CDT) at Nick Denes Field.