Freshman starter Matt Ridings threw a complete-game three hitters — the first complete game of his career — and the offense again scored in double figures as the Western Kentucky University baseball team evened its weekend Sun Belt Conference series against Arkansas State with a 10-3 win over the Indians Saturday evening at Nick Denes Field.
The win moved WKU to 15-17 on the year and 7-7 in the conference, while ASU fell to 15-23 and 7-10 in the league. The teams will play the rubber game of the series on Sunday (April 15) at 1 p.m. (CDT).
“Matt was definately the story today,” said Hilltopper head coach Chris Finwood. “I’m really proud of the way he went out there and competed. It’s even more amazing what he did considering he had to sit for nearly an hour during the rain delay early on.”
Ridings — who’s previous long outing was 6.1 innings against Troy back in late March — improved to 4-1 on the year and 2-0 against Sun Belt competion. He struck out seven Indians, which tied his career best.
After dropping game one of the series earlier in the day in the completion of Friday night‘s suspended contest, WKU wasted little time putting runs on the board as it plated four in the bottom of the first inning, sending nine men to the plate. After back-to-back singles by Scott Kaskie and Terrence Dayleg put runners at the corners to start the inning, ASU centerfielder Aaron Ferguson made a diving catch on a ball hit by Casey Hamilton. The Indians were able to double off Dayleg at first for the second out of the inning, but Kaskie came in to score the first run of the game on the play.
Troy Frazier followed with his third home run of the season off Indian starter Jett Jones to make it 2-0, and the inning was kept alive by back-to-back ASU errors as both Scotty Colt and Wade Gaynor reached. A Jack Ambrose single, followed by a J.B. Paxson RBI double capped off the inning as WKU jumped out to an early 4-0 lead.
Ridings faced the minimun through two, but a one-out walk to Jordan Kimball in the third proved costly as Ferguson followed that up with an RBI double to put Arkansas State on the board. Ridings was able to limit the damage to just a run as he got out of the inning before the rains came, forcing a 37 minute rain delay.
The Kimball double was the only hit Ridings would allow until the seventh inning as his offense gave him five more runs through six innings. Immediately after the rain delay, Frazier drew a walk to lead off the third and Colt singled to put a pair of runners on. Jones was able to strike out the next two batters, but J.B. Paxson reached on a throwing error — allowing both runners to score and stretching the lead to 6-1.
Run-scoring singles by Hamilton and Colt in fourth inning stretched the lead to 8-1, and an infield single by Kaskie in the fifth plated Matt Hightower for the ninth WKU run of the game.
The Indians were finally able to break through again against Ridings in the seventh when Drew Rogers led off the frame with a solo home run. After a walk to Kimball, a two-out double off the bat of Tyler Doke brought him around to score the third ASU run of the game.
Hightower put WKU in double figures in the bottom of the seventh when he led off with his third home run of the year to make it a 10-3 game. That would be all the support Ridings would need as closed out the game, throwing 118 pitches in the victory.
Dayleg, Frazier, Colt, Hightower and Paxson each had two hits for WKU, with Hamilton driving in a pair.