“Huck really made that lineup go. He really picked us up. It was unbelievable.” - WKU baseball coach Matt Myers
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - WKU senior first baseman Ryan Huck supplied the power for the WKU baseball team on Friday, belting two home runs, while driving in five of WKU’s six runs to lead the Hilltoppers to a 6-5 win over Sun Belt Conference rival Middle Tennessee at Nick Denes Field. The two-home run game was the second of Huck’s career, and gave the senior 21 home runs in his four-year Hilltopper career. Huck already has four home runs in 2013, which surpasses his total from the entire 2013 season. The five-RBI game was the second of his career, as he drove in five runs on April 9, 2010 against South Alabama.
“Huck really made that lineup go,” WKU head coach Matt Myers said. “He really picked us up. It was unbelievable.”
The win for WKU (8-9, 1-0) was its fifth-straight win in a Sun Belt Conference opener, and improved WKU to 10-3 in its last 13 games against Middle Tennessee at Nick Denes Field. The one-run game was also the eighth of the season for the Hilltoppers, which marks the most one-run games at this point of the season since the Hilltoppers played eight one-run games through the first 15 games of the 1973 season.
Middle Tennessee jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, getting 11 hits off of WKU starter Tanner Perkins through the first four-plus innings. The 11 hits allowed were a career high for Perkins. Middle Tennessee would have its biggest inning of the night in the fourth, plating three runs on five hits, but would strand a pair.
Trailing 4-0, the Hilltopper offense would come to life in the bottom of the fourth, as Huck would belt his first home run of the game following a Devin Kelly double. The hits were the first two of the game for WKU and cut the Middle Tennessee lead to 4-2.
Middle Tennessee would come right back out in the fifth and load the bases with no outs for the second consecutive inning off of three straight singles. Brennan Pearson would come into the game in relief with the bases loaded and no outs, only to get a strikeout and a double play to end the threat in the fifth, with Middle Tennessee leaving a pair on base. The Blue Raiders would strand nine base-runners on the night, while WKU left only one man on base.
The pitching effort from Pearson would spark the Hilltopper offense, as Ryan Huck stepped up in his very next at-bat in the bottom of the fifth inning belting a three-run home run over the right field fence to give WKU its first lead of the game at 5-4.
Brennan Pearson would make sure that lead held, as the Murfreesboro, Tenn., native worked 4.0 innings, allowing just two hits and striking out a career high six batters to hold the WKU lead at 5-4.
The Hilltoppers would scratch across an insurance run in the eighth, which would prove important, as Middle Tennessee put runners on second and third with only one out in the top of the ninth against Taylor Haydel. But a sacrifice fly and fly out to right field would end it, as Haydel would earn his second save of the season, preserving Brennan Pearson’s (1-0) third career win.
Middle Tennessee would out-hit WKU 14-8 on the day, but WKU would leave only one base-runner on base the entire game, which was the fewest left on in a game so far this season.
“The team just never quit,” Myers said. “I’m so excited about the way we played offense tonight, how we played defense and our bullpen. That was a team victory tonight. It’s not how you start it’s how your finish.”
Ryan Huck was the lone Hilltopper with a multi-hit game, going 3-for-5, which was his seventh career three-hit game, tying him with Scott Wilcox for the most career three-hit games on the team.