BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU fell into a 4-0 hole in the first inning of game one of Sunday’s double-header versus Southern Illinois at Nick Denes Field but the Hilltoppers outscored the Salukis 12-1 from that point on to sweep both games and claim the series, 2-1.
WKU captured game one by count of 6-4 and game two with a 6-1 win.
Senior pitchers Austin Clay (1-0) and Jake Thompson (1-0) led WKU with strong outings on the mound and both picked up the winning decisions while some power from the Hilltopper bats sparked a pair of WKU wins. Hilltopper pitchers combined to strike out 19 batters on Sunday, with starters Clay and Thompson fanning five each.
WKU swept a double-header day for the first time since March 16, 2013, when WKU knocked off Middle Tennessee in back-to-back games at Nick Denes Field.
The Hilltoppers have now won their season-opening three-game series six times in the past eight seasons. WKU starts the season 2-1 while Southern Illinois falls to 1-2. Below are complete recaps from both of Sunday’s games.
Game 1 – WKU 6, Southern Illinois 4
Southern Illinois jumped out to a 4-0 lead off of four hits in the top of the first inning but the Hilltoppers chipped away at the Salukis’ early strike, answering with a leadoff home run from junior shortstop Cody Wofford in the bottom of the first. Wofford sparked the comeback once more in the third inning, once again leading off with a solo homer to left field.
Wofford became the first WKU player to hit two home runs in a single game since Ryan Huck blasted two shots against Middle Tennessee on March 16, 2013. He finished the game 2-of-5 at the plate with two RBI.
Junior designated hitter Philip Diedrick but the SIU lead to 4-3 later in the third inning with an RBI sacrifice fly to score senior Scott Wilcox. Sophomore third baseman Thomas Peter drove in the tying run during the very next at bat, driving a single up the middle to score junior first baseman Ryan Church.
Wilcox gave WKU a 5-4 lead with a leadoff home run in the fifth inning and Diedrick tacked on an insurance run in the seventh with an RBI single to extend the advantage to 6-4.
Wofford, Wilcox, Church and junior catcher Ryan Messex all finished the game with a pair of hits, combining to go 8-of-16 at the plate.
Senior LHP Austin Clay rebounded from a tough first inning with 4.1 innings of two-hit baseball, striking out five batters and surrendering no runs after giving up four early. Clay earned the decision for the eighth win of his career and first of the season.
Junior relievers Tate Glasscock and Ian Tompkins took care of the Salukis following Clay’s exit in the sixth, surrendering just two hits and no runs over the course of the final 3.2 innings. Tompkins nabbed his first save of the year with two innings of shutdown work, fanning four of the seven batters he faced while giving up one hit.
Game 2 – WKU 6, Southern Illinois 1
WKU struck first and never left the its foot off the gas pedal in the series deciding game, using three hits from Peter and another multi-hit performance from Church to cruise past the Salukis, 6-1.
Peter got the scoring started right away, singling through the left side to score senior Regan Flaherty from third base. The Hilltoppers extended their 1-0 lead to 5-0 with a four-run fourth inning, which was ignited by a solo home run from Church to lead off the frame. A pair of Saluki errors and RBIs from Wilcox and Trevor Lowe rounded out the scoring in the fourth.
Senior RHP Jake Thompson had a no-hitter through four innings before running into limited trouble in the fifth, finishing his day with 4.1 innings pitched and a career high five strikeouts. Thompson surrendered one hit and one earned run after tossing 77 pitches.
Wofford crossed the plate in the seventh after the Salukis’ third error in the game to give WKU its final margin of victory, 6-1.
Freshman RHP Sam Higgs was near flawless in relief, giving up one hit and allowing one base runner in his three innings of work. The rookie struck out two and retired the first eight batters he faced before giving up a two-out single in the ninth inning.
WKU hits the road for the first time in 2014 on Tuesday as it travels to Nashville, Tenn. to take on Belmont at E.S. Rose Park. The Hilltopper IMG Radio Network will have the radio broadcast with Scott Thompson on the call and can be heard locally on ESPN 1450 AM or online at WKUSports.tv.