Bowling Green, Ky. — A Nick Denes Field record crowd of 3,057 saw the Western Kentucky University baseball team hold No. 21 Kentucky to four hits, but two of those left the yard as the Wildcats won a 2-1 pitcher’s duel on Wednesday night.
The loss ended a three-game win streak for WKU as it fell to 23-17 on the year. UK improved to 31-10.
The Wildcats got just three hits off of Hilltopper starter Matt Hightower in his 5.2 innings of work, but two of them left the yard to account for UK’s first two runs. Hightower held the Cats scoreless until the third when Collin Cowgill homered over the wall in right-center for UK’s first hit and first run of the game. After Hightower kept Kentucky off the board in the next two innings, Ryan Wilkes gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead with a solo homer to left-center in the sixth inning.
Wildcat starter Mike Kaczmarck pitched just an inning-plus before giving way to Tommy Warner. The duo kept the Toppers off the board for the first five innings. J.B. Paxson was finally able to cut into the UK lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 2-1 game.
Both teams threatened early in the game, but came up empty. UK took advantage of three first-inning walks from Hightower to load the bases with two outs in the first, but Bryan Rose grounded into a fielder’s choice to get the Toppers out of the jam.
WKU had a similar situation in the bottom of the second as Kaczmarck gave up a leadoff double to Jake Wells and hit Paxson to put two runners on. After missing on his first two pitches to Jeremy Coleman, he was lifted for Warner who proceeded to walk Coleman to load the bases with nobody out. However, Warner got Matt Bracken to ground into a fielder’s choice as Wells was forced out at home. He then recorded a pop out and a strikeout to end the inning and keep the bases loaded. In all, the Hilltoppers got the leadoff man on in five of their nine innings but were unable to push the runner across in any of those frames.
WKU outhit the Wildcats 6-4, with Terrence Dayleg collecting a pair of hits. Keenen Wiley had the only two Kentucky hits that stayed in the ballpark with a pair of singles.
Hightower (3-4) suffered the loss despite allowing just three hits and giving up two runs in 5.2 innings of work. He also struck out six Wildcat batters. Warner (3-0) earned the win as he gave up just three hits and one run in 5.0 innings of relief.
The Toppers hit the road this weekend as they return to Sun Belt Conference action with a three-game series at Florida Atlantic. First pitch of the series opener is slated for 5:30 p.m. (CDT) on Friday in Boca Raton, Fla.