Bowling Green, Ky. (WBKO) --- A 6-for-6 day from Maddie Bowlds at the plate and career-high tying 13 strikeouts from Kelsey Aikey propelled WKU to a doubleheader sweep of UTSA on Saturday. WKU claimed game one 8-1 on behind Aikey’s two hitter and home runs from Shannon Plese and Kennedy Sullivan. The Hilltoppers won game two 4-3 with a 10-hit, five-steal effort that saw Sullivan earned her first collegiate save.
WKU improved to 36-12 overall with the victories and 17-6 in Conference USA play. UTSA is now 20-29 on the season and 8-15 in league play.
The Hilltoppers’ 17 wins in conference action are a single-season program record since joining C-USA. Previously, the 2015 squad held the mark with a 16-5 reading.
On the day, Bowlds, Jordan Thomas and Plese each posted a pair of multi-hit games. As a team, WKU outhit the Roadrunners 21-7 on the day while outscoring the visitors 12-4. The Hilltoppers went 8-for-10 in stolen bases while UTSA did not attempt to steal. The Red and White’s pitching staff combined to hold UTSA to a .143 batting average against with a 19-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
GAME 1: WKU 8, UTSA 1
After a solo home run by UTSA’s second batter of the game, Aikey struck out the next five Roadrunner batters before allowing a walk. The Hilltoppers responded with three-straight outs to head back to the dugout.
WKU produced a three-run first inning to take the lead and never look back. Jordan Thomas led things off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a bunt by Shannon Plese. After stealing second, Plese advanced to third on a groundout before scoring on a Kennedy Sullivan double off the wall for a 2-1 Hilltopper lead. Jordan Vorbrink kept things going with a double through the right side to push WKU’s advantage to 3-1.
UTSA added its second – and final – hit of the game in the fourth to lead off the frame before a walk put two Roadrunners on board with no outs. From there, Aikey fired back with her sixth punchout before Jordan Thomas gloved an infield fly. Aikey closed the frame with her seventh strikeout to get the Hilltoppers out of the jam.
After a leadoff single in the top of the fourth – UTSA’s first hit since the longball in the opening frame – and a walk, Kelsey Aikey and the Hilltopper defense locked it down to strand both Roadrunner baserunners with three-straight outs.
The Roadrunners final baserunner of the game came in the fifth frame when UTSA drew a leadoff walk. Aikey responded with two more strikeouts before a flyout to right field began of stretch of seven-straight batters to close the contest.
Maddie Bowlds added her second hit of the game to lead off the fifth before scoring on Plese’s two-run home run. WKU would go on to send seven batters to the plate in the sixth. Kennedy Sullivan led off the frame with a solo home run for the first of four Hilltopper hits in the frame. Jordan Vorbrink and Bowlds followed with base knocks before Thomas added an RBI hit for an 8-1 advantage.
Aikey earned the complete-game two-hit victory to improve to 13-8 on the season. Her career-high 13 strikeouts marked her third double-digit punchout performance on the season. She allowed just two hits and three runs during her sixth complete-game outing of the season. The junior has now owns six appearances of 5+ innings with two or fewer hits on the season.
Five Hilltoppers delivered multi-hit games including a 3-for-3 effort by Bowlds. Thomas, Plese, Sullivan and Vorbrink each tallied two hits. Plese and Sullivan both added a pair of RBI in the outing as well.
GAME 2: WKU 4, UTSA 3
UTSA struck for a single run in its opening trip to the plate again in the day’s second game before WKU answered right back in the bottom of the frame. Thomas led off with a single before stealing second and going to third on an errant throw. Vorbrink got on board with a hit by pitch before Plese dropped a single into shallow center field to plate Thomas and knot the game.
WKU registered three stolen bases in the frame as Thomas, Vorbrink and Plese all took a bag.
Plese would pick up her second hit of the game with a one-out single in the third inning before stealing her second base of the game. From there, Plese would score on a Kendall Smith base hit for the Hilltopper advantage.
The Hilltoppers would tack on two more runs in the fourth to take a 4-1 lead. Rebekah Engelhardt notched a two-out base hit before stealing second for WKU’s fifth stolen base of the game. Engelhardt came around to score on Bowlds’ second hit of the game before Thomas kept the inning going with an RBI knock to plate Bowlds from first.
UTSA would tally solo home runs in the top of both the fifth and sixth innings to chase Hilltopper starter Shelby Nunn. Sullivan took over in the circle and after a walk to the second Roadrunner batter of the inning would record outs on the next three batters to shut the door.
While the scoring was finished for the game, Bowlds added her third hit of the game, sixth of the day and seventh as many at bats dating back to the Murray State game.
Bowlds is the third Hilltopper batter to have a 7-for-7 stretch at the plate. Plese did so most recently against Tennessee Tech and Middle Tennessee while Tommi Stowers did so to start the season.
Nunn earned the win in the circle, improving to 7-0 on the season. She threw 5.0 innings while allowing five hits, three runs, one walk and striking out two.
Sullivan earned the first save of her rookie campaign, closing the game’s final two frames while working just the slimmest of leads. She did not allow a hit while striking out four and walking three.
WKU’s pitching staff now consists of three pitchers with at least seven wins and one save.
In addition to Bowlds’ second 3-for-3 showing in as many games at the plate, Thomas and Plese each added multi-hit outings of their own in game two.