BOWLING GREEN, Ky. –WKU senior pitcher Jake Thompson forced South Alabama into 16 groundouts and the Hilltopper bats supported him with six runs as WKU (21-19, 9-9) claimed the Sun Belt Conference series over the Jaguars (17-22, 7-10) with a 6-3 win Sunday at Nick Denes Field.
Thompson picked up his third win after registering his third quality start of the year, working 6.1 innings, scattering five hits and allowing three runs. The senior right-hander did not record a strikeout but kept the ball low and in the strike zone to force the Jaguars into 16 groundouts.
WKU struck first for the first time in the series, using an RBI single from sophomore outfielder Anderson Miller in the opening frame to take a 1-0 lead. Junior first baseman Ryan Church was plated my Miller’s single after drawing a walk and stealing second base.
South Alabama took a brief 2-1 lead after RBI hits from Cameron Cummings and Davis Knapp in the third and fifth innings, but WKU scored five runs of its own in the fifth, sixth and seventh to take control of the game.
Senior outfielder Regan Flaherty helped WKU tie the game at 2-2 in the fifth as he laid down a perfect bunt and legged it out for a hit. Jaguar third baseman Andrew Tindell’s throw to putout Flaherty was mishandled by first baseman Hayden Jones, which allowed WKU third baseman Leiff Clarkson to race home for the tying run.
Senior centerfielder David Simmons sent a scoring fly ball deep to right field to score junior shortstop Cody Wofford in the sixth, giving WKU the lead back at 3-2. Clarkson followed by ripping a single through the left side to score freshman designated hitter Hunter Wood, pushing the advantage to 4-2 in the Hilltoppers’ favor.
After South Alabama trimmed WKU’s lead to 4-3 with another RBI from Knapp in the seventh, Wofford smoked a two-run double into the left center gap to tack on two key insurance runs and extend the lead to 6-3.
Junior relievers Brennan Pearson and Ian Tompkins got the job done from there, shutting down the Jaguars in the eighth and ninth innings. Pearson escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth by rolling South Alabama into a double play while Tompkins worked around a walk and bunt single in the ninth inning to pick up his 10th save of the year. Tompkins’ 10 saves are the second most in a single season in program history.
South Alabama starter Hunter Soleymani suffered the loss after giving up six hits and four runs in six innings of work.
The Hilltoppers finished the series with 38 hits, which marked the third time in the past four series they have had at least 35 hits against league foes. Church, Miller and Clarkson all finished with a pair of hits Sunday while Wofford’s two-run double moved him to four multi-RBI performances on the year.
WKU now sits at 9-9 in the Sun Belt Conference standings, which ties them with UT Arlington for fourth place with 12 league games remaining. The Hilltoppers are back in action Tuesday at No. 9 Louisville for their seventh ranked matchup of the season. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. (CT) at Jim Patterson Stadium.
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