Monroe, La. — A nine-run fifth inning by Louisiana-Monroe erased a 7-3 lead by the Western Kentucky University baseball team, and lifted the Warhawks to a 13-7 win Friday night in the opener of a three-game Sun Belt Conference series at Warhawk Field.
The loss was the third straight for WKU as it fell to 15-20 overall and 7-9 in the Sun Belt. ULM improved to 24-16 and 12-6 in the league.
The Hilltoppers had taken the lead just a half inning earlier as they sent nine men to the plate and scored five times in the top of the fifth. Matt Payton was able to draw a walk to lead off the frame, and came around to score on a one-out single by Terrence Dayleg to make it a 5-3 game. With two outs, three straight Hilltoppers drew walks — the last coming to Matt Hightower that brought home Dayleg bring WKU within one. Wade Gaynor followed with a two-run single to the Toppers in front, and C.J. Wamsley capped the inning with an RBI single to give WKU a 7-3 lead.
The first two Warhawk batters in the bottom of the inning where hit by Liam Shanahan pitches before A.J. Siggers and Ben Soignier delivered back-to-back doubles to make it a one-run game. In all, seven straight ULM batters would reach to start the inning before WKU was able to record an out. Bo Bowman added a two-run double later in the inning as ULM sent 14 men to the plate in the inning to jump out to a 12-7 lead.
ULM struck early as a two-out, three-run home run by Kyle Suire in the bottom of the first quickly gave the Warhawks a 3-0 lead. WKU came right back in the top of the second with a two-out rally. After Hightower doubled and came around to score on a Gaynor single, Wamsley doubled down the line in right to bring home Gaynor and make it a 3-2 game before the teams combined to score 14 runs in the fifth.
The Warhawks were able to add an insurance run in the seventh when Suire singled home Dexter Fontenot to stretch the lead to 13-7. The duo of Jared Jennings and David Mixon were able to shut out the Toppers over their final four at bats to close out the game.
Gaynor and Wamsley each finished with two hits and two RBI for the Hilltoppers, while Suire and Siggers each collected three hits for ULM. Suire also drove home five of the Warhawks’ 13 runs.
Jennings (3-1) picked up the win in relief as he allowed WKU just one hit in 2.2 innings of relief. In fact, WKU was limited to just one hit after its five-run fifth inning. Colby Beach (3-1) suffered the loss in relief for the Hilltoppers.
The teams will continue the series with a 6 p.m. (CDT) contest on Saturday.