Tops take series from Marshall

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Western Kentucky clinched its second Conference USA series win of the season by defeating Marshall 7-5 on Sunday at Nick Denes Field.

The Hilltoppers improved to 4-1 in finales of league series and freshman Luke Brown tallied a season-high three hits Sunday.

With their 17th victory of the season, WKU eclipsed its win total from a 16-39 record in 2017. The team's seventh Conference USA victory of the season allowed the Hilltoppers to surpass their league win total from a 6-24 record in 2017.

After senior Austin Tibbs shut out the Thundering Herd in the top of the first, WKU (17-18, 7-8) responded with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning.

Steven Kraft led off with a five-pitch walk then Jacob Rhinesmith skidded a single through the left side. Three-hitter Colie Currie ripped a double down the right-field line to score Kraft and put two runners into scoring position.

Tyler Robertson followed with his league-leading sixth sacrifice fly of the year to push the early lead to 2-0.

Tibbs allowed a two-out, RBI single to Geordon Blanton that allowed Marshall to get back to 2-1, but the Hilltoppers responded with another two runs in the second inning.

With one out and the bases loaded, Rhinesmith grounded into a fielder's choice that drove home a run. During the play, Herd second baseman Peter Hutzal committed his third error of the series when he threw the ball into the visitor's dugout while trying to turn a double play and a second WKU run scored, making it 4-1.

Marshall scored another two-out run in the third to bring the score to 4-2, when reliever Conner Boyd allowed one of Tibbs' inherited runners to score on a Kody Matthews single. The starter's day was done after 2 2/3 frames.

The senior lefty allowed six hits – all singles – and threw 34 of 49 pitches for strikes.

WKU added three more runs – all on sacrifice flies – in innings five and six. Colin Butkiewicz, Nick Brunson and Currie, respectively, all recorded the productive outs and the hosts took a 7-2 lead into the top of the ninth.

Working on 2 2/3 innings with a season-high four strikeouts, reliever Jacob Green tried to close it out with the save, but allowed three straight baserunners with two outs to go.

In came closer Ben Morrison in a 7-3 game and with the game-tying run in the on-deck circle, it was a save situation. The senior threw 12 pitches – all for strikes – and allowed a pair of base hits that scored the inherited runners, but caught Dakota Robbins looking to end the game with a 7-5 victory for his career-high seventh save of the year.

Righty Michael Martin earned the win, throwing 1 1/3 scoreless frames with a season-high four strikeouts. It was Martin's first victory as a Hilltopper and the second in his collegiate career.

Tennessee Tech, owners of the nation's longest win streak, comes to Nick Denes Field at 5 p.m. Tuesday.