Boca Raton, Fla. — The Western Kentucky University baseball team pounded out 13 hits and scored 11 runs as it evened its weekend series against Florida Atlantic with an 11-5 win over the Owls Saturday afternoon at FAU Stadium.
The win ended a two-game skid for the Toppers as they improved to 24-18 and 11-9 in the Sun Belt Conference. FAU fell to 24-17 and 11-7 in the league. The teams will play the rubber match of the series on Sunday at noon (CDT).
Both clubs put up runs in their first at bat of the day as a Terrence Dayleg single in the top of the first drove in Scott Kaskie with the first run of the game for WKU. The Owls came right back in the bottom of the inning, however, as a two-out single by William Block drove in Nick Arata to tie the game. Mike McKenna then came home on a Matt Ridings wild pitch as FAU took a 2-1 lead after an inning of play.
The Toppers responded with back-to-back three-run innings in the third and fourth to give Ridings some runs to work with. After Kaskie reached on an error to start the third, a Wade Gaynor double scored him all the way from first to tie the game at 2-2. Chad Cregar followed with his second home run in as many days — and 17th of the season — to put WKU in front 4-2.
WKU loaded the bases with out one in the fourth before FAU reliever Mike Gipson walked Gaynor to force home Jeremy Coleman. That would be the RBI of the inning for the Toppers, but another run scored on a Gipson wild pitch, and Kaskie came home when Terrence Dayleg reached on another Florida Atlantic error to put WKU in front 7-2.
Matt Payton — who had not homered in the first 286 bats of his collegiate career — hit a long ball for the second straight day as his two-run shot over the wall in right stretched the Hilltopper advantage to 9-2.
After giving up the two first-inning runs, Ridings settled in to blank the Owls on just one hit over the next four inning. However, FAU was able to get back on the board in the sixth as a leadoff walk to Block and a double by Tom Hatcher put two runners in scoring position with nobody out. A groundout by Alex Silversmith chased home Block, and a two-out single off the bat of Sean Bukovich drove in Hatcher to cut the Topper lead to 9-4.
After throwing 6.0 innings, and allowing four runs on six hits with four strikeouts, Ridings (8-2) gave way to the Hilltopper bullpen for the final three innings. Rye Davis threw two inning, allowing just one run when Troy Bubley hit a solo home run with two outs in the eight. Adam Balcom then pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the game as the WKU bullpen continued their recent success.
WKU was able to add an insurance in the top of the eight a Kaskie came home to score the 10th run of the game when Dayleg grounded into a double play after the Toppers had loaded the bases with nobody out. Payton then drove in the final run of the game with a ninth-inning RBI single that pushed the final margin to 11-5.
Offensively, Cregar finished with a game-high three hits, while Matt Rice, Jeremy Coleman and Payton each finished with two hits. Payton also drove in a team-high three runs. Travis Ozga finished with three hits to lead the Owls.