WKU Softball wins its ninth consecutive C-USA opening series
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - The WKU Softball team opened up C-USA play with a 2-1 series win against UTEP.
The Hilltoppers dropped the first game on Friday, losing that one 6-3.
After two scoreless and hitless innings, the Hilltoppers got things moving in the top of the third with a two-run shot off the bat of Taylor Sanders on a 2-2 count for her sixth home run in 2023. The Miners took one back after an RBI double into the gap in the bottom half of the frame for a 2-1 ballgame after three. WKU came back in with an insurance run with a stand-up RBI double from Faith Hegh – the Hilltopper’s doubles leader this season – scoring designated hitter Kaytlan Kemp and giving a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning.
A two-run home run into left field from the Miners in the bottom frame tied the game at three apiece before redshirt-sophomore Kelsie Houchens came in for relief. With no action in the seventh inning, the Tops and Miners played extras, but the Hilltoppers were marginalized after a home run into left field scored three and walked off UTEP for the final.
On Saturday, the Tops came out with a vengeance scoring 14 runs and winning game two 14-7.
The Miners plated two in the top of their first frame with a sacrifice-fly and RBI single to gain an early lead.WKU came back the following inning and took advantage of catcher
Randi Drinnon’s RBI double into left field for the first hit on the board. UTEP would later give up a bases-loaded walk, while third baseman Taylor Sanders would hit a fielder’s choice to the shortstop, scoring TJ Webster for the 3-2 lead. An explosive eight-run third inning, Drinnon later picked up a fastball down the middle on a 1-2 count for her first home run of the season over the left field wall, scoring two.
The Miners would eventually walk three consecutive with bases-loaded, giving a 8-2 advantage to the Tops. Now leading the Hilltoppers in triples this season, freshman second baseman Kaytlan Kemp sent one down the left field line and put the wheels on running to the third bag. She cleared the bases, picking up three RBIs to end the third inning with 11 Hilltopper runs on the board.
Picking up her second hit in five games, center fielder Brylee Hage found the gap into left-center field for a stand-up double and picking up two RBIs to finalize the 14-7 win.
All three pitchers saw action in the matinee match up. Kelsie Houchens got the start, while Maddy Wood earned the win and saw time in the middle, while senior Katie Gardner closed out the final three innings. They combined for six strikeouts, six walks, and giving up seven hits.
The tops closed the series out winning game three 6-1.
Moving onto the board fast, leadoff hitter Faith Hegh found a spot above right field for a stand up double, before Taylor Davis came to the plate to take a shot opposite-field and send Hegh home for an early 1-0 lead in the opening frame. A quiet middle, Katie Gardner threw a no-hitter into the fourth inning until the Miners managed to sneak one in down the right field line.
The Tops got things going in the fifth, with back-to-back singles and stolen bases from shortstop TJ Webster and Hegh, Davis put on the wheels with a bunt to send Webster across home and safe at first base, for a 2-0 ball game. Later in the frame, Brylee Hage picks up a full-count single with bases loaded for her 17th RBI on the year. Already posting three runs on the board, the Tops wrapped up the inning after catcher Randi Drinnon drew a bases-loaded walk for a 4-0 lead.
In a tough infield pop-up in the bottom of five, the Miners worked their way with a run before Gardner worked her way through a bases-loaded jam scoreless to end the inning. Picking up insurance runs, third baseman Taylor Sanders notched home run number seven on the season with a two-run shot over the left-center wall on a full count in the top of the sixth frame. In the circle, Katie Gardner got the go as she worked through her sixth complete game this season as she struck out eight, walked five, and only gave up one run on four hits to the Miners’ offense.
The Hilltoppers (17-9, 2-1 C-USA) are back next weekend on The Hill for their Conference USA home opening series against reigning C-USA Champions, North Texas. First pitch for game one is scheduled for March 24 at 6 p.m. CT.
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