BOWLING GREEN, Ky -- WKU sophomore outfielder Anderson Miller broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning Wednesday night at Nick Denes Field as he sprinted home to score the game-winning run on John Pryor’s wild pitch to knock off Lipscomb, 3-2.
Miller led off the eighth inning with his third hit of the game, poking a single through the right side to get the frame started. Miller advanced to second on a balk from Bisons’ pitcher John Pryor and was pushed over to third by Trevor Lowe’s groundout. Pryor threw a wild pitch over pinch hitting Paul Murray’s head and Miller beat out the play at home to provide the deciding score.
Sophomore right-hander Josh Bartley struck out three in two innings of scoreless relief and picked up his third win of the season. Bartley worked through the eighth with a groundout and back-to-back strikeouts looking and retired the first two batters of the ninth before giving up a two out-hit. Lipscomb’s Grant Massey smacked a liner into center in the game’s final at bat, but Hilltopper centerfielder David Simmons made a diving snag to preserve the WKU win.
WKU (16-14) snapped its four-game skid against the Bisons (18-12) behind a solid defensive effort and timely pitching. The Hilltopper pitching staff issued 11 walks but only allowed two runners to reach third base by forcing three double-play grounders. Freshman Ryan Thurston made his first career start and surrendered two hits and no runs in a career-long five innings pitched. The lefty walked seven batters but continually escaped jams with double plays turned by WKU middle infielders Leiff Clarkson and Scott Wilcox.
The pitching staff held a Lipscomb team leading the Atlantic Sun in eight offensive categories to two runs on five hits, with both runs coming off Tyson Ashcraft’s game-tying, two-run homer to left field in the sixth inning. Ashcraft’s bomb was the only instance in which WKU allowed the Bison’s to reach third base.
The Hilltoppers struck first for the first time in the past seven games with a two-run second inning. Sophomore third baseman Thomas Peter ripped a single through the right side with one out in the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After freshman catcher Hunter Wood drew a walk, Simmons slapped an RBI double left center to score Peter. Clarkson followed with a walk to jam the bases before senior Regan Flaherty was beaned, which sent Wood home to score and put WKU in front 2-0.
The score would hold in the Hilltoppers’ favor until Ashcraft’s two-run shot in the sixth knotted the game at 2-2, but WKU was able to plate the winning run in the eighth to secure victory in the 51st one-run decision of the Matt Myers era. With Bartley and the WKU defense preserving the lead in the ninth, the Hilltoppers have now won 54-straight games when leading after eight innings.
Miller was responsible for three of WKU’s seven hits, which marked the third time this season the sophomore has tallied three hits in a game. Flaherty, Peter, Simmons and catcher Ryan Messex all had base knocks as well.