Bowling Green, Ky. — Baseball fans saw a pair of complete-game performances Saturday afternoon at Nick Denes Field as Bart Carter went the distance in a 9-5 Western Kentucky University victory in the opener of a doubleheader with South Alabama. Jaguar starter Joey Doan then went the distance in game two as USA got the split with a 9-1 win.
With the split, the Hilltoppers are now 22-26 overall and 13-13 in the Sun Belt Conference, while South Alabama stands at 26-23 and 10-15 in the league. The teams will play the rubber match of the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. (CDT) in the final home game of the season for WKU.
Carter improved to 6-3 on the year as he threw his second complete game, and stuck out a career-high nine batters to lead WKU to a 9-5 win in game one. The freshman lefty allowed five runs on seven hits, but fell behind early when David Doss hit a solo home run in the top of the first to give the Jaguars a 1-0 lead. However, a Doss error in the bottom of the inning opened the door for WKU as Scott Kaskie reached on the miscue, and went to third on a Casey Hamilton double. An RBI groundout by Scotty Colt tied the game, and a Wade Gaynor single plated Hamilton to put WKU in front. Matt Hightower then delivered a triple to the right-center gap to plate a pair and give the Toppers a 4-1 lead.
After the triple, USA starter Lance Baxter (3-2) settled in to retire 10 straight WKU batters before Troy Frazier and Kaskie led off the fifth inning with back-to-back singles. Frazier was caught in a rundown on a grounder by Terrence Dayleg, but stayed in a rundown long enough for the runners to advance to second and third. That proved big as Hamilton lifted a sacrifice fly, and Colt singled home the sixth Hilltopper run of the game.
Four of the five Jaguar runs off Carter came via the home run a Ryne Jernigan hit a leadoff shot in the in the seventh, and Joel Collins hit a two-run homer in the eighth. The only run not to come by long ball came in the secnd when Sean Laird scored on a Ray Kruml single.
WKU led 6-3 entering the seventh inning before sending seven men to the plate to extend the advantage. Three of the first four battters in the inning reached, with Gaynor driving home the first run of the inning with a single, and J.B. Paxson doubling home a pair to stretch the Hilltopper lead to 9-3.
After surrendering the home run to Collins in the eighth, Carter retired four of the final six batters of the game — walking a pair in the ninth — to close out the 9-5 Hilltopper victory.
Gaynor, Paxson and Hightower each collected two hits and two RBI in game one for the Hilltoppers, while Colt also drove home a pair of runs.
South Alabama wasted little time jumping in front in game two, scoring five runs in the first two innings of Topper starter Matt Ridings (6-2). Lance Heisler led off the game with a double, and scored on a Doss single to give the Jags an early 1-0 led. A Chris Davis leadoff single in the second, followed by a Jernigan double set the table for another South Alabama scoring inning as Davis scored on a Bunky Kateon sacrifice fly, and Kruml singled home Jerningan to stretch the lead to 3-0. Heisler then homered to left to stretch the advantage to 5-0.
Ridings settled in and retired 16 of the final 18 batters he faced, limiting USA to just one hit over his final five innings of work. However, Doan (4-6) faced the minimun through four innings with the only Hilltopper baserunner coming when Kaskie reached on an error to lead off the first inning. WKU did not get its first hit of the game until the fifth when Colt led off with a single to break up the no-hit bid.
The Jaguars stretched the lead in the eighth when Jeff Cunningham hit a two-run homer in the eighth — his 21st of the season — off reliever Peter Wiggins to push the lead to 7-0. A two-out Davis single kept the inning alive, and he came around to score on a Jernigan single to make it an 8-0 game.
The Hilltoppers broke up the shutout with an unearned run in the eight s Troy Frazier singled and moved into scoring position on a failed pick-off attempt by Doan. He then scored on a Matt Payton groundout to get WKU on the board. However, USA got that run back in the top of the ninth as Heisler doubled and then scored on a Clint Toomey single to stretch the advantage to 9-1 before Doan finished off the complete-game effort in the bottom of the inning.
Colt finished with a pair of hits for WKU, while Heisler went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and a pair of RBI for the Jaguars in the finale.