Mobile, Ala. — The Western Kentucky University baseball team saw its 2007 season come to an end Thursday as it was eliminated from the Sun Belt Conference Tournament with a 7-6 loss to Florida Atlantic.
WKU finished with a 25-30 mark on the season.
Errors once again cost WKU as they committed three mistakes that led to FAU runs. Combined, the two teams left 26 runners on base — 14 by the Owls and 12 for the Hilltoppers.
For the second straight day, WKU got on the board in its first at bat as Scott Kaskie was hit by a Chris Salberg pitch to lead off the bottom of the first, then moved to third on a Terrence Dayleg single. Casey Hamilton then beat out a potential double-play ground ball at first, allowing Kaskie to come home with the game’s first run.
Hilltopper starter Matt Ridings allowed baserunners in each of his six inning innings of work, but was able to keep Florida Atlantic scoreless except in two frames. Daniel Cook led off the third for FAU with a double, and Daniel Bomback kept a ball just inside the line in right for a two-run home run to put the Owls in front 2-1.
FAU threatened again in the fourth, taking advantage of a two-out error and loading the bases. However, Ridings was able to get Robbie Widlansky to ground out to end the threat and keep it a one-run game.
WKU took advantage in the bottom of that inning as Scotty Colt led off with a bunt single, and Wade Gaynor walked to put two in scoring position. After a Matt Hightower sacrifice bunt put two in scoring position, Salberg was able to strike out J.B. Paxson on a ball in the dirt. However, the throw down to first was mishandled by Travis Ozga as Colt was able to come home to score and tie the game at 2-2.
That score held until the sixth when Nick Arata and Cook put together one-out hits to put runners at second and third. Bomback then singled home a run to put FAU back in front 3-2, ending the day for Ridings. Ben Paxton came out of the bullpen and gave up a two-run double to Widlansky as the Owls opened up a three-run lead.
WKU came right back in the bottom of the inning as Paxson drew a leadoff walk. A one-out single by Kaskie allowed Paxson to move to third, and Kaskie went into second base on the throw to put a pair in scoring position. Tyler Bumgarner then delivered a single to right to plate Paxson. One out later, Hamilton singled to left to bring home Kaskie and make it a one-run game. Colt was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Salberg was able to get Gaynor to ground out to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.
It remained a 5-4 game until the top of the ninth when a pair of errors by WKU led to two more FAU runs. After a leadoff walk to Billy Degnan, Ozga reached on an error to put runners at the corners with nobody out. Paxton was able to retire the next two batters, but Bomback singled up the middle to plate a run. On the play, the ball was misplayed by Kaskie in center as Ozga came all the way around from first to score and stretch the FAU lead to 7-4.
WKU refused to go away in the bottom of the ninth, however, as Colt was hit by a Brandon Cooney pitch to lead off the inning, and Gaynor followed with his fifth home run of the season over the wall in left to bring the Toppers within a run with nobody out. Anthony Bradley came in the game in relief and retired the next two batters, but then hit Troy Frazier with a pitch to bring the potential winning run to the plate. However, Mike Obradovich came out of the pen and got Kaskie to ground out to end the game.
Dayleg led the Hilltopper offense with two hits, while Hamilton and Gaynor each drove in a pair. Bomback went 4-for-5 with four RBI to lead the Owls.
Ridings (7-3) suffered the loss as he allowed five runs on 10 hits and struck out three over 5.1 innings of work. Paxton allowed just the two unearned runs on three hits in his 3.2 innings of relief work.