BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU’s pitching staff held a potent Georgia State offense to one run for the second-straight game and the Hilltoppers (29-25, 15-14) received just enough offense to claim the series with a 2-1 victory over the Panthers (24-31, 10-19) Friday night at Nick Denes Field.
Junior closer Ian Tompkins capped a stellar night from the Hilltopper bullpen with back-to-back strikeouts to preserve the win and pick up his 14th save of the season. Tompkins’ performance came on the heels of a superb relief effort from freshman Cody Coll, who notched his first-career win with 1.2 innings of perfect pitching.
WKU starting pitcher Josh Bartley and Georgia State’s Nathan Bates were locked in a pitchers’ duel throughout the game as the duo combined to allow just three runs through 12 innings of work. Bartley (5-4) scattered four hits and allowed one unearned run while striking out two in 5.1 innings. The sophomore right-hander continually pitched around jams and wound up leaving eight Panthers on base.
Bates (1-3) took the hard-luck loss after a quality start in which he only allowed a pair of WKU scores in 6.2 innings. The Hilltoppers racked up all nine of their hits off Bates but he too pitched around jams, leaving seven on base.
Georgia State’s lone score came in the first inning after WKU’s defense opened the game with back-to-back fielding errors. Designated hitter Chad Prain was beaned by Bartley to open the game, advanced to second base on a failed pickoff attempt and raced home after junior Ryan Church misplayed Caden Bailey’s infield grounder.
WKU designated hitter Philip Diedrick erased the 1-0 deficit with a leadoff home run in the third inning. Diedrick’s fourth homer of the year tied the game at 1-1 and was the 30th home run of the season for the Hilltoppers.
The score held at 1-1 until the seventh inning, when Diedrick set up WKU’s go-ahead run with a leadoff double. Sophomore Trevor Lowe pinch ran for Diedrick at second and was sacrificed over to third by a well-placed bunt from freshman third baseman Leiff Clarkson. With one out and the go-ahead run 90-feet from home, junior shortstop Cody Wofford took the first pitch he saw from Bates and ripped it up the middle to score Lowe.
Wofford’s RBI single proved to be the game-winner as the relief combination of Brandon Allen, Ryan Thurston, Coll and Tompkins combined to allow two hits while striking out four in 3.2 innings behind Bartley.
Allen relieved Bartley in the sixth after Georgia State put speedy left fielder Chris Triplett in scoring position with a drawn walk and sacrifice bunt. With the Panthers a base hit away from reclaiming the lead, Allen struck out shortstop David Levy and grounded Prain out to escape the threat.
Coll came on to face Georgia State slugger Nic Wilson with one out in the seventh and popped the nation’s second leading home run hitter up to shortstop for WKU’s second out. He forced catcher Joey Roach to fly out to center and set the Panther lineup down in order to get through the eighth.
That set the stage for Tompkins’ dramatic ninth inning. Georgia State pinch hitter James Clements roped a single into center to lead off the ninth and was pushed to second with another Panther sacrifice bunt. Tompkins walked Caden Bailey to put a pair of runners on and a passed ball by catcher Ty Downing gave the Panthers runners at second and third with one out.
With a pair of runners in scoring position and two of the nation’s top hitters in Raffield and Wilson due, Tompkins buckled down and struck out both players to extend his school record for single-season saves to 14.
The win moved WKU to 29-25 on the season and guarantees a winning record for the Hilltoppers for the first time since 2011.