BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Western Kentucky University junior first baseman Ryan Huck drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Hilltoppers a 7-6 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday afternoon at Nick Denes Field.
WKU (18-25, 9-11 Sun Belt Conference) rallied to tie the game three times, including coming back from down 6-3 in the sixth with single runs in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings, to even the series with ULM (20-23, 8-12).
In the 11th, center fielder Jared Andreoli sparked the rally with a one-out single, advanced to second on a groundball and moved to third on an infield single by third baseman Casey Dykes. Huck then worked a full count before driving in Andreoli with his 12th walk of the season.
“Casey Dykes deserves a lot of credit for us being where we are right here at the end,” WKU coach Matt Myers said.
Right-hander Taylor Haydel (4-3) shut out the Warhawks over the final 5-1/3 innings, giving up three hits. The junior did not issue a walk and recorded a career-high eight strikeouts.
“The minute the game was on the line we went right to Taylor,” Myers said. “Five and a third innings of shutout baseball with eight strikeouts, no walks, you can’t ask for anything better than that. He is unbelievable.”
ULM reliever Wil Browning (4-3) allowed three runs on five hits with four walks and two strikeouts in 4-1/3 innings.
WKU senior right-fielder Ryan Hutchison went 2-for-4 with a home run, two intentional walks and three RBIs. Andreoli tallied three hits while catcher Devin Kelly had two hits and an RBI. Dykes finished the game with two hits and had an RBI double in in the ninth.
The Warhawks took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on an RBI single by first baseman Joey Rapp. ULM added another run in the second on a run-scoring single by center fielder Brandon Alexander.
WKU tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the third on a two-out, two-run single by Hutchison. Andreoli and second baseman Scott Wilcox scored on the play.
The Warhawks edged in front 3-2 in the top of the fifth on an RBI single by Rapp.
The Hilltoppers got an RBI fielders’ choice off the bat of Wilcox to tie the score at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth.
ULM used a three-run top of the sixth to take a 6-3 lead. An RBI double by pinch hitter Chris Dudley along with RBI singles by left fielder Les Aulds and second baseman Caleb Clowers accounted for the scoring.
A solo home run by Kelly, his third of the season, cut the Warhawks’ lead to 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
In the eighth, Hutchison led off the bottom of the inning with a solo home run to make the score 6-5. The home run was the sixth of the year for the senior.
The Hilltoppers rallied with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 6-6 on an RBI double by Dykes.
Hilltoppers starter Tim Bado allowed six runs on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts in 5-2/3 innings.
Warhawks left-hander Randy Zeigler worked 6-1/3 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
WKU will go for the series win in the weekend finale at 1 p.m. Sunday. Sophomore left-hander Austin Clay (3-4, 4.40 ERA) gets the start for the Hilltoppers while ULM will send junior right-hander Cale Wine (5-4, 4.47) to the mound.