MOBILE, Ala. – WKU Baseball beings its quest for the Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship on Wednesday at Stank Field as the fifth-seeded Hilltoppers take on No. 4 Texas State at 9 a.m. (CT).
WKU earned the fifth seed in the league tournament after a 15-15 mark in conference play and 29-26 record overall. Texas State, who won two of three against the Hilltoppers during their March series, finished the season 16-14 in the Sun Belt and 28-26 overall. The Hilltoppers enter their final SBC Championship with a 34-38 overall mark in the tournament and are aiming for their first tournament title since 2008.
The Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship will be hosted by South Alabama and will be in double-elimination format. The winner between the Hilltoppers and Bobcats Wednesday morning goes on to face the winner of No. 1 Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 8 ULM at 4 p.m. Thursday. The losers of both matchups will try and stave off elimination Thursday morning at 9.
WKU is 10-10 in opening round games all-time and has a record of 8-8 in tournament games played in Mobile. The Hilltoppers won the tournament in Mobile during the 2004 season and have made six championship appearances overall.
Senior right-handed pitcher Justin Hageman will be on the mound for WKU following a regular season in which he went 6-2 with a 2.87 ERA. Hageman has eight quality starts in 2014 and picked up the 20th win of his career last Thursday against Georgia State. In WKU’s 4-1 win over Texas State on March 21, Hageman turned in the third complete game of his career with a four-hit, nine strikeout gem that earned him SBC Pitcher of the Week honors.
Hageman will duel with Texas State’s right-hander Taylor Black (6-4, 2.84 ERA), who suffered the loss against Hageman on March 21. Black was impressive against the Hilltopper, striking out five batters over eight innings while allowing four runs.
Offensively, WKU enters with better numbers in every category other than drawn walks and stolen bases. The Hilltoppers are batting .294 compared to the Bobcats .249 clip and holds an edge of 159-100 in extra-base hits. Texas State’s Garrett Mattlage is the lone Bobcat batting better than .300, sporting an average of .313 with 40 RBI.
Six Hilltoppers are above .300 at the plate and the nine most common players in the lineup are all batting .290 or better. Senior outfielder David Simmons leads the way with a .359 average, senior outfielder Regan Flaherty paces WKU with 70 hits and junior first baseman Ryan Church has knocked a team-high 38 runners in.
All games will be available via webstream on the Sun Belt Digital Network and can be heard locally in Bowling Green on ESPN 1450 AM. Randy Lee’s broadcasts will also be available online at WKUSports.tv. For more information on WKU Baseball, follow the team on Twitter at @WKUBaseball or visit WKUSports.com.