GREENVILLE, N.C. – WKU junior catcher Ty Downing provided the heroics for WKU Baseball Sunday at the 11th Annual Keith LeClair Classic as he ripped a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning to take down Pittsburgh in extra innings at Clark-LeClair Stadium, 3-2.
With the game knotted at 2-2 and the count full at 3-2, Downing delivered his third hit of the game just past the outstretched arms of Pittsburgh shortstop Dylan Wolsonovich to score pinch running David Simmons from second base.
The Hilltoppers’ (7-4) rally began when head coach Matt Myers decided to pinch hit junior Ryan Messex after the first two batters of the 11th were retired. Messex drew a five-pitch walk to land on first base, where he was replaced by the speedy Simmons. A wild pitch by Pitt’s Hobie Harris moved Simmons over to second and an intentional walk put sophomore Anderson Miller on first. That set the stage for Downing, who recorded WKU’s first walk-off winner since April 23, 2013 when the Hilltoppers toppled Kentucky with an 18th inning blast from Trevor Lowe.
Downing finished the game 3-of-5 at the plate with the game-winning RBI. The junior catcher has now strung together back-to-back three-hit outings.
WKU finished the Keith LeClair Classic with a 1-2 record, with all three games being decided by one run.
Senior right-handed pitcher Jake Thompson registered his first-career quality start after tossing a career-long six innings, shutting down the Panthers’ lineup with four strikeouts and no runs allowed. Including Sunday’s performance, Thompson has now thrown at least five innings and surrendered no runs in two of his five career starts.
The Hilltoppers struck right away in the first inning as sophomore third baseman Thomas Peter dropped an RBI single in the left centerfield to score senior Scott Wilcox from third. WKU scored again in the second Miller and Downing led off the second with back-to-back singles, with Miller being driven home by Lowe’s RBI groundout to extend WKU’s lead to 2-0.
Pittsburgh rallied to tie the game at 2-2 in the seventh inning with back-to-back RBI singles from Stephen Vranka and Dylan Wolsonovich, but Hilltopper reliever Brennan Pearson ended the Panthers’ big inning by picking off Wolsonovich at first. Pearson would work a perfect eighth inning of relief as well, tossing six pitches to retire the middle of the Panthers’ order.
Junior closer Ian Tompkins and freshman reliever Sam Higgs got the job done for the Hilltopper bullpen, working scoreless 10th and 11th innings to give WKU a chance to win it. Higgs was credited with the win after retiring the Panthers in order during the 11th, moving his record to 2-1 on the season.
The Hilltoppers return to the confines of Nick Denes Field on Tuesday afternoon as they host Lipscomb at 4:00 (CT). Tuesday’s game will be the first $2 Weekday Special of the season as fans can purchase tickets, food and concession specials for just $2. For more information on WKU Baseball, follow the team on Twitter @WKUBaseball or visit WKUSports.com.