BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU pitcher Jake Thompson struck out a career high 10 batters and closer Ian Tompkins shut down UALR (18-24, 6-15) in the ninth for his 11th save of the season to lead the Hilltoppers (23-21, 11-10) to a 4-1, series-deciding victory Sunday at Nick Denes Field.
Thompson (4-3, 4.55 ERA) recorded a strikeout in seven of the eight innings he appeared in and became the first WKU pitcher since 2011 to record 10 strikeouts in a game. The senior right-hander scattered seven hits, tallied two of his 10 strikeouts with the bases loaded and only gave up one run through a career high 7.1 innings of work.
Junior shortstop Cody Wofford delivered a crucial insurance run with a line-drive single into left field during the bottom of the eighth inning, pushing WKU’s lead to 4-1 by scoring sophomore outfielder Anderson Miller from second. Wofford’s single gave the Hilltoppers a three-run cushion and set the stage for Tompkins’ 11th save of the season.
Tompkins forced the Trojans into a ground out, fly out and struck out pinch hitter Ryan Scott looking to tie WKU’s single-season saves record at 11 while preserving WKU’s 4-1 advantage.
Thompson and UALR’s Cameron Allen faced off in a pitcher’s duel for most of the day, but WKU’s offense was able to generate its 24th 10-hit performance of the season and score enough runs to support a strong pitching day. Allen suffered his fourth loss of the season after giving up three runs on nine hits.
Senior outfielder David Simmons put WKU on the board in the second inning with an RBI double that plated Miller, who previously led off the frame with a double of his own. UALR starter Allen had only surrendered 13 extra-base hits entering Sunday but the Hilltoppers were able to smack four doubles and a home run off the junior righty.
UALR shortstop Austin Pfeiffer knotted the contest up at 1-1 in the fourth inning with an RBI single through the left side, but WKU quickly regained control in the bottom half of the frame. Junior designated hitter smacked his third home run of the season to lead off WKU’s fourth to put the Hilltoppers back in front and freshman third baseman Leiff Clarkson tacked on another run with an RBI double, extending the WKU lead to 3-1.
Thompson retired nine-straight Trojans in innings five through seven, three via the strikeout to keep WKU’s lead in tact at 3-1 entering the eighth. Freshman Sam Higgs relieved Thompson in the eighth and escaped a two-base jam unscathed to set up Wofford’s insurance RBI in the bottom half.
Miller, Simmons and Clarkson all finished with two hits apiece for the Hilltoppers as WKU finished the series with 34 hits, marking the fourth time in the past five league series it has finished with 30 or more hits.
The Hilltopper victory keeps WKU in a tie for fourth place in the Sun Belt Conference standings at 11-10 with three weeks left in the regular season. WKU will hit the road for Austin Peay in a non-conference battle Tuesday at 6 p.m. before returning home to host Belmont Wednesday at 6 p.m. For more information on WKU Baseball, follow the team on Twitter at @WKUBaseball or visit WKUSports.com.