TROY, Ala. – WKU Baseball pounded out 14 hits compared to Troy’s nine Sunday at Riddle-Pace Field, but erratic fourth and eighth innings from the Hilltopper pitching staff resulted in 10 runs for the Trojans (19-18, 6-8) as they captured the Sun Belt Conference series with a 10-5 win.
The Hilltoppers (19-17, 7-8) led 1-0 through their half of the third inning but starter Josh Bartley lost control after his strong start, walking two, plunking three and giving up a hit to allow six Troy runs in the fourth. Reliever Jake Thompson wild pitched another run in before striking out two Trojans to end Troy’s six-run fourth inning.
Trailing 6-1, WKU put together a small rally in the eighth with two runs courtesy RBI from freshmen Hunter Wood and Leiff Clarkson. Senior outfielder Regan Flaherty, who tied a career high with four hits, represented the tying run with two on and two outs in the eighth, but he rolled out to second to end WKU’s threat.
With the Hilltoppers threatening late, the Trojans responded with four runs on four hits in the eighth to keep WKU out of striking distance. WKU plated two more runs in the ninth, one via a bases loaded groundout by Philip Diedrick and the other courtesy Ryan Messex’s RBI single.
But it was too little, too late for the Hilltoppers, whose loss dropped them to 5-11 on the road and 7-8 overall in league play. Seven of Troy’s 10 runs reached base by an error, being hit or walked.
WKU set the tone early as senior first baseman Regan Flaherty led off the first inning with a double to right field. Fellow senior Scott Wilcox sacrificed Flaherty over to third and sophomore outfielder knocked him in with a fielders’ choice RBI to give WKU a 1-0 lead.
Bartley started his first-career Sun Belt Conference game and was nearly flawless through three innings, allowing just one hit and forcing nine groundouts. The sophomore right-hander lost his control after retiring eight-straight, issuing back-to-back walks and plunk three-consecutive Trojans to give Troy a 3-1 lead. Bartley gave up a one-run single, the Hilltoppers committed a fielding error and Thompson threw a wild pitch later in the inning as Troy finished its big inning with six runs.
Thompson was solid in relief as he struck out three and allowed three hits in 3.2 innings. He was also charged for two runs. Brennan Pearson gave up two runs in the eighth before junior Ian Tompkins ended the inning with a strikeout.
Troy reliever Ben Tidwell came in after just one inning from starter William Shell and he puzzled the Hilltopper batters, striking out three and allowing one run through 6.1 innings.
Flaherty and Messex led the offense with four hits apiece, which represented career bests for both players. Wilcox and senior David Simmons both posted two hits as well.
The Hilltoppers look to rebound Wednesday when they face No. 23 Indiana in Bloomington. The Hoosiers have won nine of their last 10 games and entered last week ranked 11th in the NCAA RPI. WKU and Indiana’s contest is scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m. (CT) at Bart Kaufman Field. For more information on WKU Baseball, follow the team on Twitter at @WKUBaseball or visit WKUSports.com.