Clutch Hitting, Aikey's Lockdown Secure 6-4 11-Inning Win At MTSU

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WBKO) --- WKU Softball’s longest game of the season resulted in an 11-inning 6-4 victory at Middle Tennessee on Tuesday to secure the series sweep. Kendall Smith delivered a three-run home run in her first trip to the plate for her fourth homerun of the series before WKU produced three extra-inning runs to secure its second extra-inning win of the season. Kelsey Aikey locked down the final 7.1 innings en route to the win, including maneuvering the Red and White out of a bases-loaded no-out situation in the eighth.

In the inning with the bases loaded and no outs, I thought Kelsey Aikey showed her toughness in the circle,” head coach Amy Tudor shared. “For our team to find ways to score runs, we scored when we needed to. It wasn’t the prettiest but we showed a lot of fight and I’m proud of the way we hung in there.”

WKU climbed to 33-9 on the season with its fourth series sweep in league play. In Conference USA action, the Hilltoppers are now 15-3. Middle Tennessee is now 25-21 overall and 9-8 in conference play.

Jordan Thomas led off the series finale with a walk and Shannon Plese followed suit, bringing Smith to the plate with one out. After a dropped foul ball by the Blue Raiders, the Bowling Green native struck for her fourth home run of the series – third of the three-run variety.

From the second through ninth innings, WKU’s offense would be held scoreless with six hits scattered throughout the eight frames.

Kennedy Sullivan worked into the bottom of the fourth inning after drawing the start. She exited with a line of three hits, two runs, three walks and a pair of strikeouts and was responsible for a pair of runners on base. On the second pitch Aikey threw after entering the game, she induced a groundout to Rebekah Engelhardt at third base to get the Hilltoppers out of the inning with a 3-2 lead still intact.

Down to their final out in the bottom of the seventh Middle Tennessee came through with an RBI single that knotted the contest at 4-4. With two MTSU runners still on base, Aikey delivered her fifth strikeout of the game to send the Hilltoppers to their third extra-inning tilt of the season.

Smith led off the eighth with a walk before being erased in a double play. With two outs, Jordan Vorbrink registered her first hit of the day with a single but WKU couldn’t add anything else.

MTSU drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the frame before a pair of fielding errors loaded the bases with the game tied at 3-3. Aikey turned around and delivered a four-pitch strikeout for the first out. With a full count on the next batter, Shannon Plese handled a shallow flyout to keep the MTSU runners in place. Aikey went on to strike out the next batter to keep the hosts out of the score column and get the Hilltoppers out of a bases-loaded no outs jam and send the game to the ninth.

In the ninth, both dugouts recorded a hit as WKU stranded Maddie Bowlds on base and a pair of Blue Raiders ended up stranded after Vorbrink gunned down a runner at the plate attempting to score from second on a shallow base hit.

Plese led off the 10th with a double before Smith drew an intentional walk. From there, Sullivan sent a foul ball deep to the right field corner that MTSU caught but allowed Plese to move into third base. During Vorbrink’s at bat, heads up base running by the Hilltoppers allowed Plese to score on a wild pitch for a 4-3 lead.

With MTSU down to their final out again in the 10th, the Blue Raiders struck for an RBI double to knot the game back up at 4-4. With runners on first and second, Aikey induced a flyout to Plese in centerfield to send the Hilltoppers back to the plate.

With one away in the frame, Bowlds accepted a five-pitch walk. From there, Kelsey McGuffin stepped into the box for a pinch-hit appearance and delivered a double to right field that allowed Bowlds to advance to third base. With two runners in scoring position, Paige Carter dropped a sacrifice bunt that allowed Bowlds to score the go-ahead tally while reaching base safely herself after a throwing error by MTSU. WKU’s next batter, Plese delivered a productive out in the form of an RBI-groundout to second base, which allowed McGuffin to score for a 6-4 Hilltopper advantage.

Heading to the bottom of the 11th with a two-run lead looking for three outs, Aikey and the Hilltopper defense needed just five pitches to get the first two outs – a flyout to Plese and a foul popout to Smith behind the plate. After MTSU broke through with a single, WKU’s middle infielders teamed up for a force out at second to end the game.

“I think that’s a special part of this program; we’re fights – we’re going to fight every single pitch,” Kelsey McGuffin shared.

Aikey earned the win in the circle after a 7.1-inning relief appearance and now sits at 12-6 on the season. The junior registered eight strikeouts while allowing just four hits, two runs and nine walks.

Morgan McElroy and Bowlds each delivered multi-hit games, accounting for four of the Hilltoppers’ nine hits in the outing. WKU’s batters drew nine walks led by three to Smith.

WKU left 11 runners on base while the Hilltopper defense stranded 18 Blue Raider runners on board. Fifteen of those MTSU runners came on Aikey’s watch.

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