Tops take down FAU in another comeback win to advance to the C-USA Semifinals
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - No. 4 WKU Baseball eliminated No. 5 seed Florida Atlantic, 9-7, in day three of the Conference USA Championship Friday night at Reckling Park.
In what seems like déjà vu, the Hilltoppers faced a six-run deficit in the late inning against the Owls for the second time in three days when a ferocious, seven-run eighth inning rally gave the Tops the edge and ultimately resulted in the victory for WKU. This marks the fifth win over the Owls this season with the Tops winning three of the five coming back from a six-run deficit in at least the sixth inning or later.
“Their starter was throwing really well. He was sinking it, throwing a slider, and we just couldn’t quite get behind it. We were hitting balls hard,” said head coach Marc Rardin. “You try to stay a little bit close than six runs like we were, but we finally started getting something going and they had to get to their bullpen like anybody in this tournament right now. Other than probably DBU, everybody is trying to turn people in the bullpen a second time and trying to use them, just like what we did tonight. So, we got to them, took advantage of a few walks, and got a couple base-hits and went from there.”
Florida Atlantic jumped in front quickly with a triple followed by a two-run home run to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
The Hilltoppers were held hitless through two innings before AJ Fiechter singled down the right side with one out in the bottom of the third. Fiechter advanced to second with two outs, but nothing resulted as the Owls were able to track down an inning-ending flyout.
In the top of the fourth, the Owls loaded the bases with no outs before utilizing a two-RBI single to double their lead to 4-0. The Tops offense was then sat down in order in the home half of the frame with just a single hit on the board.
Two more runs scratched for Florida Atlantic in the top of the fifth by way of a solo home run and an RBI double to extend its advantage to 6-0.
After a couple scoreless innings on both ends, the Tops finally showed some signs of life in the bottom of the seventh inning with a two-run blast from Kirk Liebert to cut the Owls lead to 6-2.
With just two runs and five hits on the board at the start of the bottom of the eighth, the Hilltopper offense erupted for a seven-run eighth inning to give them their first lead of the night. It all started with back-to-back walks from Brett Blomquist and Ty Crittenberger before Lukas Farris and Tristin Garica notched back-to-back RBI singles to cut the FAU lead in half at 6-4. After Drew Reckart was hit by a pitch, Kirk Liebert walked with the bases loaded to score another and make it a one run game at 6-5. The owls had a chance to end the inning with a routine groundball to second base, but an errant throw in the dirt got passed the first baseman, resulting in the tying and go-ahead runs to score, and allowing the Tops to claim the 7-6 advantage. They were not done just yet when Brett Blomquist stepped back up for his second at-bat of the inning and clocked a two-run single to left field, extending the WKU lead to 9-6.
In what seemed almost improbable at the start of the half inning prior, the Tops defense took the field only needing three outs to secure the win, and they did just that. Allowing just one runner to score, CJ Weins recorded two strikeouts in the top of the ninth on his way to his first win of the season in the 9-7 comeback win over the Owls.
Brett Blomquist was the only Hilltopper to produce a multi-hit performance in a 2-for-3 outing with two RBI, a walk, and a run scored while Kirk Liebert hit the lone Hilltopper long ball in a 1-for-3 night with three RBI, a walk, and two runs scored.
The No. 4 seeded Hilltoppers will face off against No. 1 seeded Dallas Baptist in the semifinals of the Conference USA Championship beginning at 12:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, May 27 at Reckling Park in Houston, Texas. WKU must defeat the Patriots twice on Saturday to advance to the Championship game on Sunday, May 28.
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