MOBILE, Ala. – WKU rallied from two different two-run deficits in the sixth and seventh innings but a pair of South Alabama runs in the bottom of the seventh inning finally doomed the Hilltoppers as the Jaguars took the series-deciding game, 7-5.
First place in the Sun Belt Conference standings was on the line for WKU (21-19, 11-7) and South Alabama (29-12, 12-6), as the Jaguars’ win moved into the top position at 12-6 while the Hilltoppers fell into a three-way tie for second place at 11-7.
Trailing 2-0 in the sixth inning, WKU began its first rally with a single from Devin Kelly and a drawn walk from right fielder Justin Hageman. With two outs in the inning Steve Hodgins ripped a two-run double into right field to plate both Kelly and Hageman. Hodgins finished the weekend 6-of-13 with five RBI at the plate, tallying a pair of hits in all three games.
The Jaguars would answer immediately in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Drew Cofield, Jordan Patterson and Nick Zaharion recorded three-straight RBI hits to take back the advantage at 5-2. The sixth inning proved pivotal in the series, as 14 of the series’ 39 runs were scored in the frame.
The Hilltoppers would not fade, however, as Kelly started WKU’s second rally with a two-run homer to left field to cut USA’s lead to 5-4 in the seventh inning. Ryan Messex followed Kelly’s home run with a double and Blake Crabtree punched the game-tying run across with a single to center field.
South Alabama countered WKU’s rally once again in the seventh, using an RBI-single from Jeff DeBlieux and a wild pitch from Ian Tompkins to score the game-deciding runs.
WKU loaded the bases in the eighth inning and looked to have another rally going before pinch-hitting Kelby Chowning struck out swinging to end the inning. Justin Hageman singled in the ninth during WKU’s last chance, but USA’s all-time saves leader Kyle Bartsch shut down the remaining Hilltopper batters to preserve the game.
Seniors Ryan Huck, Devin Kelly and Steve Hodgins all finished with the game with two hits, combining to go 6-of-13 with four RBI. The trio also had multi-hit performances in Friday’s 10-8 win over South Alabama. Huck now has 48 career multi-hit games.
WKU’s defense was superb all weekend long, turning seven double plays in the series after entering the weekend with 22.
Left-handed pitcher Tim Bado worked 5.2 innings in his 10th start of the season, scattering 10 hits and surrendering five runs. Bado has lasted at least 5.2 innings in six of his 10 starts this season.
The Hilltoppers used a Jake Thompson, Ian Tompkins, Taylor Haydel and Brennan Pearson to relieve Bado. The quartet tossed 2.1 innings, struck out four batters, allowed four hits and two runs. Tompkins took the loss to fall to 3-4 on the season.
The Hilltoppers are back in action at home on Tuesday to face nationally-ranked Kentucky at 6:00 PM (CT) at Bowling Green Ballpark. The first 500 WKU students at the game will receive a free red tee shirt. Tickets for the game, along with tickets for the remaining seven home games can be ordered online at WKUSports.com. Fans can also visit the WKU Ticket Office in E.A. Diddle Arena, or call 1-800-5 BIG RED.