Little Rock, Ark. — UALR scored five times in the top of the first inning, and rode 6.1 strong innings on the mound from Ashur Tolliver to a 9-4 win over the Western Kentucky University baseball on Sunday in the finale of a three-game Sun Belt Conference series at Gary Hogan Field.
The loss dropped the Hilltoppers to 25-22 overall and 12-12 in the Sun Belt Conference, while UALR — who won its first league series of the season by taking two of three on the weekend — improved to 13-29 and 7-15 in the league.
For the third straight day, the Hilltoppers were forced to play from behind as UALR sent 10 men to the plate and scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning off of starter Colby Beach. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Beach walked Matt Apfel on four pitches, then gave up a double to Robert Taylor to score Apfel all the way from first to give the Trojans a 1-0 lead. After a Greg McCarthy single brought in Taylor, Brad Swiderski doubled to drive in the third run of the game. After an infield single by Kody Kroll put runners at the corners, a balk by Beach brought in Swiderski with the fourth run of the inning. Jared Powell then collected the fifth straight hit for UALR with an RBI single to cap off a five-run first inning.
The Hilltoppers were able to put together a two-out rally of their own in the second when back-to-back singles by Jake Wells and Matt Payton drove in their first two runs of the game. After Payton stole second, Scott Kaskie reached on an error, allowing both runners to score to make it a 6-4 game.
However, WKU would not record a hit against Tolliver over his final 4.1 innings as the Trojans were able to build on their lead. Another double by Taylor in the second drove home Erick Hanlon, and an RBI groundout by Nick DeSanctis in the third pushed the advantage to 7-4.
UALR made it four straight at bats with a run in the fourth as Taylor’s third double in as many at bats brought home Apfel — who led off with a single — to push the advantage to 8-4. Apfel then started another scoring inning in the fifth as he led off with a double and came home on a McCarthy sacrifice fly to again give the Trojans a five-run lead.
WKU would only put up runs in the second inning, and were limited to just three base hits in their final seven at bats — all off reliever Clay Rominger. Tolliver (1-5) earned his first win of the season as he allowed four runs, only two of which were earned, on four hits and struck out five. Beach (2-3) suffered the loss as he allowed six runs on seven hits in 1.1 innings of work. Matt Hightower threw the final 6.2 innings for WKU, striking out six and allowing three runs on five hits.
WKU collected just six hits on the afternoon, with Wells collecting a two-hit game. Terrence Dayleg also extended his hitting streak to 13 games with an eighth inning single. Apfel and Taylor both had three hits to lead UALR, with Taylor and McCarthy driving in three and two runs, respectively. The Trojans pounded to 12 hits on the afternoon, including seven doubles.
The Hilltoppers will break from midweek action for final exams, before returning to the field on Friday (May 9) to open a three-game series with Louisiana-Lafayette at Nick Denes Field. WKU will play its final six Sun Belt Conference games at home to close out the 2008 regular season.