BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - The WKU baseball team scored six combined runs in the seventh and the eighth innings to cap off a seven-run comeback on opening day Friday afternoon at Nick Denes Field, forcing the first extra-inning season opener for WKU since the 1999 season. The comeback bid would eventually fall short, however, as Bowling Green State plated the eventual game-winning run in the top of the 10th inning, finishing off a 9-8 win for the Falcons.
The WKU comeback was made possible in large part to the pitching from the left-handed duo of Austin Clay and Ian Tompkins, who shut down the Falcon offense after WKU had surrender eight runs in the first two innings. Clay and Tompkins retired 21-straight batters in a span that stretched from the third inning to the 10th inning, and combined for nearly nine innings of relief work, striking out 10 batters and allowing just two hits.
Trailing 8-2 in the seventh, WKU junior centerfielder David Simmons started the Hilltopper rally, lacing a two-RBI single to cut Bowling Green State's lead to 8-4. Following a pair of errors, WKU would plate two more runs in the inning, inching the Hilltoppers to within two heading to the eighth.
After Tompkins struck out the side in the top-half of the eighth, WKU junior shortstop Scott Wilcox tied the game up with a clutch two-RBI single, scoring Griffith Roark and Matthew Paculan. Wilcox finished the game 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI, marking his sixth career three-hit game, and his seventh career multi-RBI game.
Tompkins would strike out the side in both the eighth and ninth innings before walking Bowling Green State's Trey Keegan with two outs in the 10th inning. Keegan would eventually score the game-winning run, coming around on a Brian Bien single, accompanied with an error that allowed Keegan to score from second.
The Falcons scored eight runs in the first two innings on Friday off of seven WKU walks. Hilltopper starter Justin Hageman lasted 1.0 inning, allowing seven runs, but struck out the first two batters of the game. Austin Clay would throw the next six innings in relief, allowing just one run on two hits. The six innings in relief set a new career high for Clay.
Three WKU newcomers were inserted into WKU head coach Matt Myers' starting lineup, as left-fielder Regan Flaherty knocked in the Hilltoppers' first run of the season in his first-career at bat, doubling to score Wilcox from first base. Second-baseman Griffith Roark also picked up his first hit as a Hilltopper, helping jump-start the WKU rally with a bunt single in the eighth inning.