New Orleans, La. — New Orleans scored 11 unanswered runs in the seventh and eighth innings to come back from an 11-2 deficit to pick up a 13-11 win over the Western Kentucky University baseball team Sunday afternoon at Maestri Field in the finale of a three-game Sun Belt series.
The loss dropped the Hilltoppers to 21-25 on the year and 12-12 in the Sun Belt, while UNO took two of three on the weekend to improve to 31-17 and 14-10 in the league.
After WKU opened up an 11-2 lead, UNO finally broke through against starter Matt Hightower in the bottom of the seventh as T.J. Baxter and Johnny Giavotella led off the inning with a double and single, respectively. Greg Wolfe followed with a run-scoring double that plated Baxter and ended the day for Hightower. Ben Paxton came out of the pen as Josh Tarnow lifted a sacrifice fly that plated the second Privateer run of the inning. A Drew Anderson double cut the Hilltopper lead 11-6. After a walk to Mark McGonigle, pinch hitter Nick Schwaner doubled off the wall in right to bring home the fourth UNO run of inning. Colby Beach relieved Paxton and got Brandon Bowser to fly out to center, but McGonigle scored from third on the play, and a Butler RBI single capped off the six-run inning that cut the WKU lead to 11-8.
UNO continued its comeback in the eighth as Giavotella led off with a walk and Wolfe was hit by a pitch to bring the tying run to the plate. Tarnow delivered as he doubled down the third-base line to plate Giavotella and make it an 11-9 game. Ryan Eden followed with a single through the right side to plate the 10th run of the game for UNO. After Beach struck out McGonigle for the first out of the inning, Schwanner singled home the tying run as Tarnow scored the tying run of the game. Beach was able to get Bowser to ground back to the mound, getting the out at second, but WKU was unable to turn the double play as Eden scored the go-ahead run for the Privateers. Joey Butler followed with an RBI single to stretch the UNO lead to 13-11.
Steven Whalen was able to retire the Toppers in the ninth to end the game.
The Hilltoppers wasted no time putting runs on the board, as they knocked UNO starter Bryan Cryer out of the game without recording an out. After Scott Kaskie led off the game with a double, Terrence Dayleg was hit by a pitch to put two men on. Casey Hamilton followed with an RBI double down the first-base line, and Scotty Colt delivered a run-scoring single to give WKU a 2-0 lead. Wade Gaynor then delivered the big blow of the inning with a three-run home run over the wall in left to put the Toppers in front 5-0. J.B. Paxson made it six straight Hilltoppers to reach as he singled to end the day for Cryer, but reliever David Burch was able to come in and get Jack Ambrose to ground into a double play. After a walk to Troy Frazier, Matt Payton delivered the sixth Hilltopper hit of the inning with a single, but Burch was able to get Kaskie to ground out to end the threat.
UNO got a run back off WKU starter Matt Hightower in the bottom of the first as Butler hit a solo homer off the scoreboard in left-center. However, Hightower was able to hold the Privateers scoreless until the third when Butler came to the plate again and parked his second home run of the game to cut the WKU lead to 5-2.
Kaskie was able to get that run back with a two-out, solo homer in the fourth to stretch the lead to 6-2 — the only run allowed by Burch in his four innings of relief. In fact, WKU played long ball in three straight innings as Colt hit a solo shot off reliever Matt Wagner in the fifth. Kaskie then became the first Hilltopper this season to have a multi-homer game with a two-run blast to left-center in the sixth that stretched the WKU led to 9-2.
The first three Hilltoppers reached in the seventh inning as Hamilton singled, Colt walked and Gaynor singled to load the bases. Paxson followed with a two-run single off Randy Verdin to stretch the advantage to 11-2, but Verdin was able to retire three straight to get out of the inning before UNO exploded over its final two at bats.
Beach (3-3) suffered the loss, allowing five runs on five hits in 1.1 innings of relief. Whalen (6-4) got the win in relief for UNO.
Butler finished with four hits and four RBI for the Privateers, while Kaskie, Hamilton and Gaynor each had three hits for the Hilltoppers.
WKU will take the week off for final exams before hosting South Alabama in the final home series of the 2007 season next weekend (May 11-13) at Nick Denes Field.