ARLINGTON, Texas – WKU rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie Texas Arlington at 3-3 Sunday at Clay Gould Ballpark, but the Mavericks (27-25, 16-11) scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to down the Hilltoppers (27-25, 13-14) and complete the sweep with a 5-3 win.
Freshman designated hitter Hunter Wood ended a six-inning scoring drought by WKU with a three-run homer to tie the game at 3-3 in the seventh inning, but the Mavericks responded with back-to-back RBI singles from Derek Miller and Ryan Bottger to reclaim the lead at 5-3.
Senior outfielder David Simmons kept WKU’s hopes alive with a one-out single in the ninth, bringing Wood and junior catcher Ryan Messex to the plate representing the tying run. UTA reliever Chad Nack struck out Wood and forced Messex to fly out to preserve the win and pick up his third save.
WKU’s Jake Thompson and UTA’s Zach Thompson were locked in a pitchers’ duel for the first couple of innings before the Mavericks capitalized on some Hilltopper miscues to jump in front.
The Mavericks broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the third inning, only one of which was earned for Jake Thompson. Fielding and throwing errors from WKU on the same play resulted in UTA’s first score as third baseman Eric Tate came racing home from second on the Hilltopper miscues. Outfielder Ryan Bottger rolled out to first base but plated Travis Sibley and J.M. Twichell sent a scoring fly ball to center to put the Mavs in control at 3-0.
Texas Arlington’s Zach Thompson held the Hilltoppers’ hitless through six innings and only allowed two base runners in that span. He did not record a strikeout but forced WKU into 10 groundouts behind some excellent defensive play.
The Hilltoppers did not put a runner in scoring position until the seventh inning when Simmons recorded WKU’s first base hit with two outs, moving junior shortstop Cody Wofford over to second base. That set the stage for Wood, who smoked Zach Thompson’s 3-2 pitch over the fence in the right field gap to tie the game at 3-3.
The Mavericks loaded the bases in the bottom half of the inning but the relief tandem of Brennan Pearson and Austin Clay escaped the jam unscathed for WKU. Freshman third baseman Leiff Clarkson led off the Hilltoppers’ eighth inning with a double and was sacrificed to third base by senior outfielder Regan Flaherty. WKU couldn’t push Clarkson home, however, as two groundouts ended the Hilltoppers’ threat.
Clay walked Darien McLemore and plunked Travis Sibley to put WKU in a jam in the bottom of the eighth. That set the stage for Miller and Bottger, who delivered the game-deciding RBI hits to hand Clay his third loss of the season.
Starter Jake Thompson registered his fifth quality start of the season after tossing 6.1 innings and striking out six batters while surrendering three runs. In his last three starts he has given up three earned runs and struck out 22 in 19.1 innings.
Simmons and Clarkson both finished with two hits, combining for four of WKU’s five hits in the contest.
The Hilltoppers will conclude their regular-season with a three-game league series versus Georgia State at Nick Denes Field this weekend. With the Sun Belt Conference Tournament looming the entire league will play Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week. Thursday’s first pitch between WKU and Georgia State will be at 6 p.m.
For more information on WKU Baseball, follow the team on Twitter at @WKUBaseball or visit WKUSports.com.