BOWLING GREEN, Ky -- BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU pounded out a season-high 19 hits which resulted in 13 runs Wednesday night at Nick Denes Field as the Hilltoppers (25-21) cruised past Belmont (18-25-1) with a 13-3 victory.
The Hilltoppers scored in six of the eight innings they stepped to the plate and posted crooked numbers on the scoreboard in four of those innings, highlighted by a five-run fifth inning. Every player in the starting lineup recorded at least one hit and seven of nine starters tallied two or more hits.
Senior southpaw Austin Clay improved to 5-2 on the season with his third quality start of 2014, scattering six hits and two runs over six innings of work. Clay struck out five Bruins and only surrendered one earned run in his first start since April 12.
The Bruins did strike first in the opening frame, scoring on a Hilltopper throwing error to take a 1-0 lead. WKU answered its early deficit just as it did the night before at Austin Peay, however, scoring two runs in the bottom half to take a lead it wouldn’t give up.
Belmont starting pitcher Chase Cunningham (4-5) was knocked out after two innings of work as the Hilltoppers jumped on him for four runs in the opening two frames. Senior second baseman Scott Wilcox, who finished his night 3-of-5 at the plate, got WKU’s big scoring night started in the first when he raced home on a wild pitch to tie the game at 1-1. Sophomore Anderson Miller then put WKU in front for good with an RBI groundout that plated junior first baseman Ryan Church, giving WKU a 2-1 lead.
Two more WKU runs crossed in the second after freshman catcher Hunter Wood scored on a Bruins’ fielding error and senior outfielder Regan Flaherty soared a sac fly to right, scoring sophomore outfielder Trevor Lowe to put the Hilltoppers in control at 4-1. Wood played a role in another run during the third inning, smacking a double down the right field line to score junior designated hitter Philip Diedrick. Wood finished the game 2-of-3 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Leading 5-1 in the fifth inning, WKU seized complete control with a five-run frame. Miller started the big inning by scoring on another Bruin fielding error, freshman third baseman Clint Hardy plated Wood with an RBI single, freshman shortstop Leiff Clarkson returned the favor to Hardy while Flaherty singled in the next at bat to plate Clarkson. Wilcox ended the fifth inning scoring by scoring on Blake Harvey’s wild pitch.
WKU’s bats didn’t slow down despite its 10-2 advantage as the Hilltoppers knocked in two more during the sixth. Lowe rocketed an infield single to score Miller before Hardy posted his second RBI of the game with a sac fly that scored Lowe.
Freshman Cody Coll made his fifth appearance for WKU after six solid innings from Clay and he responded with two innings of two-hit baseball, striking out one and allowing a run. Belmont scored its third run on an RBI groundout to trim the Hilltoppers’ advantage to 12-3 in the seventh, but the WKU pitching staff wouldn’t allow any sort of rally.
Coll and junior Brandon Allen were effective in relief, combining to allow three hits and just one run over the final three innings. Both pitches recorded a strikeout and neither issued a free pass.
Hardy capped WKU’s huge night at the plate with his first-career home run in the eighth inning, a solo shot that ended the game’s scoring at 13-3. Hardy was 2-of-4 at the plate with a team and career-high three RBI in his sixth career start.
Flaherty also had a productive night at the dish, going 3-of-4 with a pair of RBI. Flaherty now has six three-hit performances on the season, including back-to-back three-hit outings against Austin Peay and Belmont this week. Miller, Lowe and Clarkson all finished with two hits apiece.