BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Matt Rice delivered a one-out single to right field, driving in two of his game-high four RBI on the night as Western Kentucky University (28-11) rallied to knock-off in-state rival Eastern Kentucky (20-17) 11-9 on Wednesday evening at Nick Denes Field. In snapping a three-game skid to the Colonels, WKU extended its school record home winning streak to 16 games. The Hilltoppers are 21-1 at the friendly confines as a crowd of 1,272 watched the 133rd meeting between these two programs.
After scoring three two-out runs in the opening two frames, one on an RBI single by Terrence Dayleg and the other two on one of Wade Gaynor's two doubles on the evening, WKU led 3-0. EKU entered the contest hitting .354, however, and showed why, pounding out four runs on three hits in the third to go in front 4-3. Aaron Barrows delivered the key blow, a triple to left center scoring two.
A two-out RBI single by Richie Rodriguez in the fourth increased the spread to 5-3, but Gaynor singled up the middle with one out in the home half of the fourth, stole second and third, and then scored on a passed ball to make it a one run game again. Gaynor swiped a career-high three bases in addition to going 3-for-5 at the plate with three runs scored and two RBI.
EKU hurt themselves defensively, especially behind the plate where two Colonel catchers combined for two passed balls, one throwing error, and a catcher's interference.
The Colonels took their largest lead of the game in the fifth at 7-4, only to see the Toppers battle back to push across three in the sixth behind RBI singles from Rice and JB Paxson to tie the game at 7-7.
With bases loaded and no one out in the top of the seventh, EKU managed just one run as WKU senior hurler Evan Teague settled down to induce a sacrifice fly, a strikeout, and a pop fly to center, setting up Rice's game winning hit in the bottom of the inning.
Rice, who has his school record hitting streak halted at 31 games over the weekend, finished 2-for-4 with two walks. Freshman Jared Andreoli added a 2-for-3 night with two walks and three runs scored from his leadoff spot. Jake Wells singled in one of his two official at bats to extend his hitting streak to a current team best nine games.
Teague (3-2) notched the win in tossing 1.0 inning of relief while junior Matt Ridings (2) came out of the bullpen to work the ninth and pick up his second save in as many relief appearances this season.
Paul Duncan (4-5) allowed three runs, two earned, on three hits and one walk in 1.1 innings in the loss for EKU.
Matt Davis went 3-for-5 to lead the Colonels while Barrows, Jayson Langfels, Jacob Daniel, and AJ Jamison all had two hits for EKU.
WKU returns to Sun Belt Conference action this weekend as the league leaders host Florida Atlantic in a three-game series beginning Friday, April 24 at 6:00 PM at Nick Denes Field.