Murfreesboro, Tenn. — The Western Kentucky University baseball team closed out the regular season on a high note as they picked up a 4-2 win over Middle Tennessee Saturday afternoon at Reese Smith Field.
The win gave WKU the series victory over MTSU, as the Toppers closed out the regular season with a 25-28 overall record and a 15-15 mark in the Sun Belt Conference. However, by virtue of Florida Atlantic’s come-from-behind win over Florida International earlier in the day, WKU will be the #7 seed in next week’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Mobile, Ala.
The Hilltoppers wasted little time getting runs on the board as Matt Hightower hit his second solo home run in as many days in the top of the first. WKU stretched the lead to 2-0 the following frame as Matt Payton singled home Scotty Colt.
Colby Beach made his second start of the weekend blanked the Blue Raiders (29-26, 16-14 SBC) over the first two innings, but surrendered a leadoff double to Drew Robinson in the third. After a fly out by Matt Ray moved Robinson to third, he came home on a Blake McDade groundout to cut the WKU lead in half.
That would be the only run allowed by Beach (4-3) in his scheduled four-inning start as he allowed MTSU four hits, while striking out one. Ben Paxton came out of the WKU bullpen and pitched three scoreless innings — allowing just one hit — to preserve the one-run lead.
“The star of the game was definitely our pitching and defense,” said Hilltopper head coach Chris Finwood. “I’m really proud of our guys to come out and win the series — especially after dropping the opener. I feel like we’re really carrying a lot of positive momentum heading into the conference tournament.”
The Toppers were finally able to get back on the board in the eight as Terrence Dayleg and Casey Hamilton began the inning with back-to-back singles to get the inning started. Colt then hit a ground-rule double that plated Dayleg to stretch the lead to 3-0. Wade Gaynor was then hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Brett Reilley was able to pick up a strikeout for the first out of the frame. However, Reilley then hit Troy Frazier with an inside pitch, forcing home Hamilton to give WKU a 4-1 lead.
Steve Hupper finished out the game for his fourth save of the year, retiring six of the last seven batters of the game. The only mistake came when he Rawley Bishop homered in the eighth to make the final score 4-2.
Hamilton and Colt each finished with multi-hit games for WKU, finishing with three and two, respectively. Bishop accounted for two of MTSU’s six hits.
As the seventh seed in the conference tournament. WKU is slated to play at 12:30 p.m. (CDT) on Wednesday (May 23) against #2-seed New Orleans. The Hilltoppers dropped two of three to the Privateers just two weeks ago in New Orleans.