Miami, Fla. — Terrence Dayleg finished with two hits and a career-high four RBI to lead the Western Kentucky University baseball team to a 6-5 victory over Florida International Saturday afternoon at University park.
The win by the Hilltoppers evened the Sun Belt Conference weekend series at one game apiece. WKU moved to 7-9 overall and 2-3 in the league, while FIU dropped to 13-10 and 1-1 in the SBC.
The teams will play the rubber match of the series on Sunday (March 18) at 11 a.m. (CDT).
For the second day in a row, the Hilltoppers struck first as J.B. Paxson led off the third inning with a double, then moved to third on a Matt Payton sacrifice bunt. After Scott Kaskie was hit by a pitch to put runners at the corners, Terrence Dayleg battled from an 0-2 hole to deliver a sacrifice fly that scored Paxson with the game’s first run.
The Golden Panthers came right back in the bottom of the inning as Manuel Arrojo drew a leadoff walk. An errant pick-off throw from WKU starter Matt Ridings allowed Arrojo to move all the way to third, and he eventually scored on a one-out single by Bryan Pullin to tie things up at 1-1.
The top of the WKU lineup put it back in front in the fifth as Kaskie set the stage with a one-out single. Dayleg followed with an RBI double to bring home Kaskie, then came around to score on a Casey Hamilton single to give the Toppers a 3-1 lead and end the day for FIU starter Chris Allen. However, just as it did in the third inning, FIU responded in the bottom of the with a two-out run. After James McOwen delivered a single and stole second, John Petika singled to drive in McOwen and make it a one-run game.
Dayleg delivered again in the sixth when his second double of the game plated both Paxson and Payton to stretch the Hilltopper lead to 5-2. One inning later, three consecutive two-out walks to Matt Hightower, Paxson and Payton force home the sixth WKU run of the afternoon as Jack Ambrose walked in to stretch the advantage to four runs.
The Golden Panthers refused to go away, however, as they battled back with three unanswered runs against Hilltopper reliever Colby Beach. A two-run home run by Petika in the seventh made it a 6-4 game. Then, in the eight, FIU put the tying run in scoring position with just one out in the inning. A Pullin RBI groundout brought home Cody Jacobs to make it a one-run game, but Beach got McOwen to line out to end the inning and leave the tying run stranded at third.
Florida International put the tying run on base when Tyler Townsend came through with a one-out single. However, Steve Hupper was able to get a flyout for the second out, then picked off pinch runner Brian Adams at first to end the game and record his second save of the season.
Bart Carter (3-1) picked up the win in relief of Ridings, who allowed two runs on four hits, while striking out three in his 4.2 inning start. Carter, Ben Hildreth, Beach and Hupper preserved the lead over the final 4.1 innings. Allen (1-2) suffered the loss for FIU as he surrendered three runs on eight hits over 4.1 innings of work.
Hamilton and Ambrose each collected three hits to lead the WKU 12-hit attack, while Kaskie joined Dayleg with two hits. McOwen, Petika and Raimy Fuentes each had two hits for FIU.