Tops cap opening day at C-USA Championship with walk-off victory
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - No. 4 WKU Baseball defeated No. 5 seed Florida Atlantic, 10-9, in the first round of the C-USA Championship on Wednesday night at Reckling Park.
The Tops would not be denied, as they overcame a six-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning, to walk it off in the bottom of the ninth when AJ Fiechter singled up the middle with two outs and the bases loaded to secure the opening round win for WKU.
“I was trying to figure out what guys I was going to throw and not ‘eat up’ pitchers, to be honest with you,” said head coach Marc Rardin on the seventh inning. “Coffman does the job there, like he did last weekend at DBU. Then, all of a sudden, you score six, which is really weird to say. We couldn’t get [Mason] Burns up fast enough to get him in there, but he puts up those two zeros and gives us a chance to score one.”
WKU jumped out in front early, as Ty Crittenberger and Aidan Gilroy hit back-to-back doubles to take the early lead. The Tops were able to load the bases with no outs, but a ground ball from Drew Reckart allowed the Owls to turn two. It did, however, cross another run for WKU, giving them a 2-0 lead after one.
Florida Atlantic utilized a two-run home run to knot things up in the top of the third inning, but the Hilltopper offense took the lead right back with an RBI single off the bat of Lukas Farris to make the score 3-2 after three frames.
In the top of the fourth, a bloop single found the outfield turf with the bases loaded for Florida Atlantic, allowing two runs to score and give the Owls their first lead. Then, a Hilltopper wild pitch scratched another for FAU to extend its lead to 5-3.
Two more long balls from FAU in the top of the fifth and seventh innings combined for four RBI to give FAU its biggest lead of the night, seemingly, putting the game out of reach for WKU, sitting at a 9-3 deficit.
The comeback Tops struck in the bottom of the seventh, tying the game with a six-run rally that started with an RBI groundout from Aidan Gilroy. Lukas Farris and Drew Reckart made it a three-run game with an RBI single a piece before Andrew Delaney launched a pinch-hit, three-run bomb to knot things up going into the eighth, 9-9.
After loading the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, AJ Fiechter delivered with an RBI single to seal the game in walk-off fashion.
Mason Burns earned the win for WKU, his sixth of the season, pitching the final 2.0 frames, notching two strikeouts while allowing no runs on just one hit and three walks.
Lukas Farris led the Tops at the plate in a 3-for-5 night with two RBI and a run score while Ty Crittenberger was 3-for-4 with two doubles and three runs. Andrew Delaney had the lone Hilltopper homer of the night, with a pinch-hit three-run shot.
The No. 4 seeded Hilltoppers will face off against No. 1 seeded Dallas Baptist in the second round of the Conference USA Championship beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT on Thursday, May 26 at Reckling Park in Houston, Texas.
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