Bowling Green, Ky. — Adam Rusnock and Matt Hightower each collected three hits for the Western Kentucky University baseball team on Sunday, but it was a Daniel Bomback three-run home run in the eight inning that lifted Florida Atlantic to a 9-7 win Sunday afternoon at Nick Denes Field.
The Owls took two of three in the Sun Belt weekend series, improving to 15-4 on the season. WKU fell to 6-8 and 1-2 in the conference.
“Outside of one inning on Friday night, our guys played right with one of the top teams in our conference this weekend,” said Hilltopper head coach Chris Finwood. “Credit Florida Atlantic — they got some big two-out hits today. But I couldn’t be prouder of the way our kids played and fought all weekend.”
The Hilltoppers found themselves in a 6-1 hole as FAU plated run in each of their first five at bats. However, WKU sent nine guys to the plate in the sixth, and scored five times to pull even. After Terrence Dayleg was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, Scotty Colt followed a Casey Hamilton walk with a single to drive home the second Topper run of the afternoon. One out later, Wade Gaynor drew a walk and Hightower doubled to drive in two more runs. Rusnock then delivered his first career RBI with a single to make it 6-5 and put runners at the corners. Matt Payton followed with a squeeze bunt as Hightower scored on the play to even things up at 6-6.
The score remained tied until the eighth when Tyler Steven led off with a single against reliever Steve Hupper, and moved into scoring position on a Billy Degnan sacrifice bunt. Bart Carter came out of the bullpen and got Nick Arata to fly out for the second out of the inning. But after an intentional walk to William Block, Bomback hit a three-run shot into the WKU bullpen in left to put the Owls back in front by three.
WKU got a run back in the bottom of the inning when Hightower led off with a triple, and scored on a Dayleg two-out single to make it a two-run game. After a scoreless top of the ninth, WKU put together a two-out rally as pinch hitter Troy Frazier and Hightower each singled. C.J. Wamsley then walked to load the bases, but reliever Mike Obradovich came out of the bullpen and got Payton to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the game.
Peter Wiggins got the start on the mound for WKU, allowing six runs over 6.0 innings, while striking out a season-high nine batters. Wiggins allowed just seven hits to the Owls, but three of those left the yard as FAU was able to build its early lead.
Hupper (0-1) suffered the loss as he allowed a run on two hits over 1.1 innings of relief. Florida Atlantic reliever Chris Salberg (1-2) picked up the win as he struck out five Hilltoppers and allowed just one run in 3.0 innings.
The Hilltoppers collected 16 hits with Scott Kaskie, Hamilton and Colt picking up two hits each to go along with Rusnock and Hightower’s three-hit efforts. Hightower also drove in a team-high two runs. Bomback finished 2-for-4 with four RBI and three runs scored with FAU.
WKU will have a week off before returning to Sun Belt action next weekend (March 9-11) as they travel to Miami for a three-game series at Florida International. First pitch of Friday’s series opener is scheduled for 6 p.m. (CDT).