Little Rock, Ark. — The Western Kentucky University baseball team took its first lead of the game on a Terrence Dayleg three-run homer in the ninth inning, but UALR scored twice in the bottom of the inning to pick up a 9-8 victory Saturday afternoon at Gary Hogan Field and even the three-game Sun Belt Conference weekend series at a game apiece.
The teams will play the rubber match of the series at 1 p.m. (CDT) on Sunday.
Trailing 7-4 heading to the ninth inning, WKU (25-21, 12-11 SBC) got a leadoff walk by Jake Wells and a single from Matt Payton to put runners at first and second. Scott Kaskie followed with a single to drive in Wells and cut the Trojan lead to two. After Matt Hightower lined out hard to third for the first out of the inning, Dayleg hit an opposite-field home run over the wall in right off reliever Steve Gilgenbach to give the Toppers their first lead of the game at 8-7.
UALR (12-29, 6-15 SBC) refused to go quietly in the bottom of the inning, however, as Greg McCarthy drew a leadoff walk from Evan Teague, and moved to second on a Brad Swiderski single. Kody Kroll attempted to bunt the winning run into scoring position, but Teague was able to throw out Swiderski at second to put runners at the corners with one out. However, Zach Rowles singled to right to drive in McCarthy to tie the game and again put runners at the corners. Bryce Jenney relieved Teague and walked Daniel Guffey to load the bases, but got Eric Hanlon to fly out to shallow center for the second out of the inning. He then got Nick DeSanctis to hit a chopper to short, but Dayleg dropped the ball transferring it from his glove to his hand as all runners were safe and Kroll came home to score the winning run for the Trojans.
Just as they did in Friday’s series opener, the Hilltoppers put up runs in their first at bat against UALR starter David Klumpp. After a one-out single by Hightower he was able to move into scoring position on a Dayleg groundout. Chad Cregar followed with a single to center to plate Hightower with the game’s first run, then came around to score on a Wade Gaynor double to make it a 2-0 game.
However, WKU would be limited to just two hits off of Klumpp in the next five innings as the Trojans were able to jump ahead against Hilltopper ace Matt Ridings. UALR was able to load the bases with two outs against Ridings in the second inning. A two-run single by Hanlon tied the game before DeSanctis cleared the bases with a triple to give the Trojans a quick 4-2 lead.
UALR added another run in the third when Robert Taylor came home to score on a Kroll groundout, then extended the lead to 6-2 in the fifth when a two-out double by Swiderski drove in Taylor.
The six runs were the most allowed by Ridings in a game this season as he surrendered eight hits and struck out five in his five innings of work. Klumpp, on the other hand, allowed four runs on eight hits, and struck out eight in seven innings of work. Neither starter factored in the decision.
WKU was finally able to get to Klumpp again in the seventh when J.B. Paxson led off the inning with a single, and moved to third on a hit by Matt Payton that stayed just inside the third-base bag. Kaskie followed with a triple to the gap in right-center that pulled the Toppers within a pair. The hit was the seventh triple of the year for Kaskie, tying Randy Strijek for the WKU single-season record. It also moved him into a tie with Matt Idlett for the career triples record at 12.
The Trojans were able to add an important insurance run in the eighth when Rowles reached on an error to start the inning and came home to score on a Hanlon single to make it a 7-4 game before the events of the ninth inning.
For the game, Kaskie, Cregar, Gaynor and Payton each had two hits to lead the WKU offense. Kaskie and Dayleg both drove in three, with Dayleg also extending his hitting streak to 12 games with his ninth-inning homer. UALR — who has now pounded out 30 hits in the series — saw its 14 hit attack led by three-hit efforts by both Hanlon and Swiderski.