TROY, Ala. – WKU junior designated hitter Philip Diedrick smacked two solo home runs and closer Ian Tompkins shut the door on Troy’s late comeback Friday night at Riddle-Pace Field as the Hilltoppers held on for a 5-4 league win.
Diedrick cranked leadoff bombs in the fourth and sixth innings to spark WKU’s 5-0 start and Tompkins picked up his ninth save of the year with a game-ending strikeout. The Sun Belt Conference road victory moves WKU to 7-6 in league play and 19-15 overall while the Trojans fell to 4-8 in conference play and 17-18 on the season.
The Hilltopper bats were rolling early, pounding out seven hits and four runs off of Trojan starter Tanner Hicks (2-6) in 3.2 innings. Sophomore outfielder Anderson Miller, this week’s Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week, put WKU on the board in the first inning with an RBI single to score senior second baseman Scott Wilcox.
Junior first baseman Ryan Church moved the Hilltoppers’ advantage to 2-0 in the third with a fielders’ choice RBI, plating senior outfielder Regan Flaherty, who doubled earlier in the inning. Flaherty drove in a run of his own in the fourth, plating shortstop Leiff Clarkson with a hot-shot up the middle following Diedrick’s leadoff home run. Diedrick made it 5-0 in the sixth inning with a towering shot to right field.
Diedrick finished the game 3-of-4 with two homers and two RBI. Wilcox also tallied three hits for the Hilltoppers, marking his 11th career three-hit game.
Senior right-hander Justin Hageman (4-1) won his fourth-straight game after working six innings and striking out six. WKU’s ace scattered nine hits and gave up three runs in the seventh after tossing six scoreless innings to start the game. He was solid in tight situations all night long, stranding nine Trojans on base and ending three innings with strikeouts.
The Trojan offense finally found life in the seventh as it plated three runs to trim WKU’s lead to 5-3. Second baseman Garrett Pitts brought home Troy’s first two runs with a two-run single and Matt Howard returned the favor to Pitts later in the inning with an RBI groundout.
Facing a jam with two runners aboard and no outs, WKU reliever Brennan Pearson came in during the seventh and got the Hilltoppers out of the hole with two groundouts and a strikeout. Pearson worked a perfect eighth before putting two Trojans on base during the ninth. He finished his night with two strikeouts, one hit and one run allowed.
Tompkins, a NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List member, came on for the save during the ninth and struck out two of the three batters he faced. He fanned David Hall before giving up a sac fly to Jo-El Bennett, which brought the Trojans within 5-4. With the tying run at second and the winning run at the plate, Tompkins struck out Howard swinging for his ninth save of the year. Tompkins’ nine saves this season are tied for the second most in a single season in WKU history.
With the win, the Hilltoppers have now taken the opening game of their last four weekend series, all with Hageman starting on the mound. WKU can clinch the series at Troy Saturday at 6 p.m. WKU southpaw Austin Clay will start against Trojan lefty Shane McCain. For more information on WKU Baseball, follow the team on Twitter @WKUBaseball or visit WKUSports.com.