MONROE, La. – WKU sophomore pitcher Josh Bartley did not surrender an earned run over eight innings of work and received 11 runs from his offense as the Hilltoppers (27-21, 13-10 SBC) cruised to an 11-2, series-clinching win over ULM (18-30, 8-15 SBC) at Warhawk Field Saturday night.
Bartley picked up his fifth win of the season and led WKU to its fifth-consecutive win, marking the longest winning streak for WKU since winning eight-straight in March 2011. Bartley was nearly flawless in innings three through eight, retiring 18 of the last 21 Warhawks he faced. Overall, he scattered six hits and struck out three while allowing two unearned runs in the second inning.
ULM scored the game’s first runs with a two-run single from second baseman Jeff Fuller in the second inning but WKU responded with 11 unanswered runs, five of which came in the third inning.
With WKU trailing 2-0 in the third inning, junior first baseman Ryan Church ripped the first of his three hits into left field to drive in freshman third baseman Leiff Clarkson baseman and trim ULM’s lead to 2-1. Junior designated hitter Philip Diedrick followed suit in the next at bat with an RBI single through the left side to score senior second baseman Scott Wilcox, knotting the game at 2-2.
With runners on the corners and two outs in the third, junior shortstop Cody Wofford stepped to the plate and smashed a three-run homer over the left field fence to clear the bases and put WKU in front for good at 5-2. Wofford’s home run was his fifth of the season as he gave Bartley and the Hilltopper defense a cushion to work with.
The Hilltoppers responded with five runs of their own in the third inning, which was sparked by junior shortstop Cody Wofford’s three-run homer. Bartley and the Hilltopper defense buckled down after WKU’s five-spot in the third, retiring 18 of the next 21 Warhawks over innings three through eight.
The Hilltoppers extended their cushion with a pair of runs in the sixth inning courtesy senior second baseman Scott Wilcox’s run-scoring double and Church’s RBI groundout. Senior outfielder David Simmons pushed WKU’s 7-2 lead to 8-2 in the seventh inning after ripping a triple off the right field fence to score Wofford.
Flaherty drew a bases loaded walk to score Simmons in the ninth and Wilcox tacked on two more runs with a single into left. Wilcox and Wofford both finished with three RBI and combined for five hits, four of which went for extra bases.
Freshman pitcher Cody Coll relieved Bartley in the ninth and retired the side with a strikeout and double-play grounder. WKU’s bullpen has tossed five scoreless innings in the series and held ULM to one hit.
Wilcox, Wofford, Church and Simmons all finished with multiple hits on the night, combining for 10 of WKU’s 13 hits. Wilcox was 3-of-5 with three RBI and two runs scored, Church finished 3-of-6 with two RBI and a run scored while Wofford was 2-of-5 with three RBI and a pair of runs scored.
WKU finished the game with 13 hits, marking the 27th double-digit hit performance of the year and the 16th time in the past 18 games the Hilltoppers have finished with nine or more hits.
The win improved WKU’s record to 27-21, which puts the Hilltoppers six games over .500 for the first time since the 2011 season when they finished the season 33-24. The victory also puts WKU in sole possession of fourth place in the Sun Belt Conference standings and just one game back of second place.
The Hilltoppers go for the sweep of ULM Sunday at 1 p.m. (CT). Senior right-hander Jake Thompson (4-3, 4.55 ERA) will start on the mound for WKU and will square off against ULM right-hander Alex Hermeling (1-5, 5.40 ERA). For more information on WKU Baseball, follow the team on Twitter at @WKUBaseball or visit WKUSports.com.