Bowling Green, Ky. — The Western Kentucky University baseball team got a solid start from Bart Carter, and closed out the 2008 regular season with a 7-2 win over Middle Tennessee Saturday afternoon at Nick Denes Field.
The win secured the fifth seed in next week’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament for next week (29-24, 16-14 SBC). The Toppers will open tournament play against fourth-seeded Florida Atlantic on Wednesday (May 21) at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field in Lafayette, La. Game time for the opener is yet to be determined.
The teams traded offensive punches in the third and fourth innings. WKU got on the board first in the bottom of the third as it put together three straight two-out hits against Blue Raider starter Chad Edwards. Scott Kaskie got things started with a double, then scored on a two-base hit by Matt Hightower for the first run of the game. Terrence Dayleg followed with a single to bring home Hightower and give the Toppers a 2-0 lead.
The Blue Raiders (27-27-1, 13-16 SBC) came back to tie the game in the top of the fourth when Zach Barrett led off the inning with a single moved to third on a double by Rawley Bishop. Bryce Brenze lifted a sacrifice fly to bring in Barrett with MTSU’s first run, and Justin Jones tied the game at 2-2 with a single.
The Hilltoppers came right back in the bottom of the inning, however, as singles by Matt Rice and J.B. Paxson put runners at first and second with one out. After a walk to Kaskie loaded the bases, Hightower lifted a sacrifice fly to bring in Rice and give WKU a 3-2 lead. Paxson was then able to score on a wild pitch by reliever Brent Smalley to push the advantage back to two runs.
That would be all the support Carter would need as allowed just the two fourth inning runs. The sophomore lefty improved to 6-4 on the season he scattered nine hits over 7.2 innings, while striking out four batters and not allowing a walk.
Clinging to the two-run lead, WKU took advantage of two Blue Raider errors in the seventh to extend the lead. After Jake Wells and Rice both reached on miscues to start the inning, Matt Payton moved them into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Paxson was intentionally walked to load the bases before Kaskie singled to drive in Wells and make it a 5-2 game. Another Hightower sacrifice fly brought in Rice, and Dayleg singled home Paxson to stretch the lead to 7-2.
Carter was able to pitch into the eighth inning before giving way to Colby Beach, who allowed just one hit in 1.1 innings, and struck out three of the four batters he faced to close out the victory.
Both teams finished the game with 10 hits, with Kaskie posted three in his final game at Nick Denes Field. Dayleg finished with two hits and two RBI, while Hightower drove in a game-high three runs. Bishop finished with three hits for the Blue Raiders.