Bowling Green, Ky. — The Western Kentucky University baseball team pounded out 18 hits, and used a pair of four-run innings to pick up a 13-4 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Sunday afternoon in the finale of a three-game Sun Belt Conference series at Nick Denes Field. The win gave WKU a 2-1 series victory, and also clinched a spot in the eight-team Sun Belt Tournament.
The Hilltoppers improved to 27-23 and 14-13 in SBC action, while the Ragin’ Cajuns fell to 25-27 and 13-14 in the league.
WKU hits the road for its final nonconference game of the season on Tuesday when it takes on Austin Peay at noon (CDT) in Clarksville, Tenn. It will then close out the regular season by hosting Middle Tennessee in a three-game series starting on Thursday (May 15).
The Toppers scored runs in six of their eight at bats, and broke the game open with a four-run fourth inning. Trailing 4-3 entering the frame, a one-out walk to Matt Hightower and a single by Terrence Dayleg moved the tying run into scoring position. Chad Cregar followed with a double off the wall in right to plate Hightower and tie the game at 4-4. That ended the day for UL starter Brent Solich (2-5), but the Hilltoppers recorded three straight hits off reliever Buddy Glass as three more runs scored to make it a 7-4 game.
That would be all the support WKU starter Bart Carter (5-4) would need, and he threw 5.0 innings, allowing four runs on five hits and struck out five. After picking up four hits in the first three innings, the Cajuns were limited to just two hits the rest of the way, and were shut out in their final six at bats. Cater pitched a pair of scoreless frames in the fourth and fifth, before giving way to Rye Davis who earned his third save of the season with 4.0 innings of scoreless relief. In fact, Davis did not allow a hit until a two-out double by Jordan Poirrier with two outs in the top of the ninth. He also stuck out six UL batters — just one shy of his career high.
Both teams had four hits through the first three inning, but WKU would knock out 14 hits in its final five at bats to continue building on its lead. A sacrifice fly by Cregar in the fifth and a run-scoring double by J.B. Paxson in the sixth gave the Toppers a 9-4 lead. After a scoreless seventh, WKU sent nine men to the plate in the eighth, getting RBI singles from Matt Payton and Gaynor, and a two-run single by Cregar to put up another four runs.
The lopsided end result was a far cry from the early stages of the game, when the two teams traded the lead through the first three frames. A sacrifice fly by Scott Hawkins in the first inning drove in Brian Bowman with the game’s first run. However, WKU came right back in the bottom of the inning to take a 2-1 lead when Gaynor drove in Hightower, and Dayleg scored on a wild pitch. UL came back with two more in the second as William Long doubled home the tying run, and Josh Logan picked up an RBI single to make it a 3-2 game.
The Hilltoppers tied the game on a Dayleg RBI double in the bottom of the inning. A Justin Robichaux double then put the Cajuns back in front 4-3 before WKU pulled away in the fourth inning.
For the game, Dayleg, Gaynor and Jeremy Coleman all had three hits, while Kaskie, Cregar and Paxson each picked up a pair of hits. With his three-hit effort, Dayleg extended his hitting streak to 16 games. Cregar and Gaynor led the Hilltoppers with four and three RBI, respectively. Cregar has now picked up 72 RBI on the season — just seven shy of equaling the WKU single-season record set by Mike Williams in 1980.