BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU sophomore outfielder Anderson Miller racked up a career-high four hits and junior first baseman Ryan Church smacked a go-ahead grand slam in the fifth inning to power the Hilltoppers to a 9-6, series-clinching win over Arkansas State Saturday at Nick Denes Field.
Miller tallied hits in each of his first four at bats, capped by a towering solo home run to right field in the seventh inning to extend WKU’s lead to 7-4. The Hilltoppers fell behind 3-0 early but Church’s grand slam spearheaded a five-run fifth inning to give WKU a 6-3 lead it would not relinquish.
WKU again capitalized in two-out hitting situations as it recorded seven of 10 hits and scored eight of nine runs with two outs on the board. For the season, the Hilltoppers are hitting .306 and have racked up 75 RBI in two-out situations.
WKU (18-14, 6-5) has now equaled its season-long winning streak at four games and has pulled within a game of second place in the Sun Belt Conference at 6-5. The Red Wolves fell to 16-15 overall and 7-4 in league play.
Arkansas State pounced on WKU starter Austin Clay for three runs early, but Clay was able to pitch around jams and only surrendered three hits and three runs over five innings while picking up his fourth win of the year.
The Hilltoppers began to chip away at the early three-run deficit in the third inning when speedster David Simmons took advantage of a Red Wolves’ fielding error to score WKU’s first run in the third inning. WKU trailed 3-1 in the fifth inning with two outs on the board before Simmons began a five-run two-out rally with a base knock to center field.
Junior shortstop Cody Wofford knocked in the first of his three RBI with a liner into left field that plated sophomore outfielder Trevor Lowe, trimming Arkansas State’s advantage to 3-2. Senior Scott Wilcox drew his 117th career walk to load the bases in the next at bat, setting the stage for Church’s grand slam. The powerful Church swung at the first pitch he saw from Red Wolves’ southpaw Chandler Hawkins and drilled the ball out of Nick Denes Field for WKU’s first grand slam since April 12, 2011.
Sophomore reliever Josh Bartley took over WKU’s pitching duties with a 6-3 lead in the sixth and worked the final four innings for his first-career save. Bartley scattered four hits, allowed three runs and struck out three during his four-inning save.
Arkansas State scored two runs in the eighth inning after Miller’s homer in the seventh, cutting WKU’s lead to 7-6. But as the case was Friday night, WKU delivered two key insurance runs in the eighth to give themselves a three-run cushion heading to the ninth. Wofford was responsible for the insurance runs as he snuck a two-run single through the right side to score Flaherty and Lowe. The junior shortstop finished the day 2-of-5 with three RBI and a run scored.
Church led WKU with four RBI, which all came on his fifth-inning grand slam. Miller continued his red-hot week at the plate, finishing the game 4-of-5 with an RBI and a run scored. In four home wins this week, Miller is 11-of-16 at the plate with five RBI, five runs scored, two doubles, a home run and a stolen base.
The Hilltoppers will go for the sweep of Arkansas State on Sunday at 1 p.m. It will be another Sunday Fun Day at The Nick as children ages 12 and under receive free admission along with a chance to run the bases following the game. Fans are also encouraged to support the BGWC Humane Society in the annual Bark in the Park game by bringing in one of the following items to receive a complimentary ticket to the game: Clay Cat Litter, Clorox Wipes, Bleach or Liquid Washing Machine Detergent. Dog owners are also invited to bring their canine to Nick Denes Field.
For tickets and more information on WKU Baseball, call 1-800-5 BIGRED or visit WKUSports.com.