Bowling Green, Ky. — Liam Shanahan gave the Western Kentucky University baseball team seven strong innings Friday night, and the offense responded with 14 runs as the Hilltoppers picked up a 14-5 win over Troy Friday evening at Nick Denes Field in the opener of a three-game Sun Belt Conference weekend series.
The win moved the Hilltoppers to 10-13 and 4-3 in the Sun Belt, while Troy fell to 16-11 and 6-4 in the league.
“This may have been our best performance of the season, and I’m really proud of the way our guys came out and just played hard tonight,” said Hilltopper head coach Chris Finwood. “Liam pitched his best game of the season, and really did a great job for us on the mound.”
After Troy plated an unearned run in the top of the first, the Hilltoppers wasted little time getting on the board against Trojan starter Clegg Snipes as they sent nine men to the plate in the bottom of the inning. Scott Kaskie led off the inning with a single, and came home to score on a one-out double by Casey Hamilton. After a walk to Scotty Colt and base hit by Matt Hightower loaded the bases, Troy Frazier was hit by a pitch to force home the second WKU run of the inning. A Wade Gaynor bloop single brought home Colt to make it 3-1, and C.J. Wamsley delivered a sacrifice fly to plate the fourth and final WKU run of the inning.
Snipes (2-3) lasted just the one inning for Troy as he suffered the loss on the hill.
Hamilton stretched the lead to 6-1 with a two-run homer in the bottom of the second, and — after a Troy run in the top of the third — WKU batted around again in the bottom of the inning to blow things open.
The Toppers loaded the bases with one out against Trojan reliever Neal Jordan before Kaskie brought home a pair with a double. Nate Duhe came in to relieve Jordan as was greeted by Terrence Dayleg who hit a three-run home run to left-center, stretching the WKU lead to 11-2.
Troy got a pair in the fourth thanks to a Brett Henry sacrifice fly and Rob Brown RBI single to make it 11-4, but that would be the last runs allowed by Hilltopper starter Liam Shanahan.
Shanahan (1-5) went 7.0 innings to get the victory as he scattered seven hits and allowed four runs — three of which were earned — while striking out six Troy batters.
The Hilltoppers would add some insurance a Hamilton doubled and scored in a wild pitch in the sixth, and Gaynor led off the seventh with his first career home run to stretch the advantage to 13-4.
The Trojans got a run back in the eighth when a Clint Robinson single off of reliever Colby Beach scored Edgar Ramirez to make it a 13-5 game. However, Gaynor came through with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the inning to stretch the lead back to nine runs. J.B Paxson came out off the bullpen in the ninth and blanked to Trojans to seal the victory for WKU.
Offensively, Hamilton led the way going 4-for-4 with three RBI and three runs scored, while Gaynor went 4-for-5 with three runs driven in. Kaskie also added a pair of hits, while Dayleg drove in three with his home run. Ian Craze and Robinson each had two hits to lead Troy.
The two teams will continue their series on Saturday (March 31) with a 3 p.m. (CDT) first pitch at Nick Denes Field.