Bowling Green, Ky. (WBKO) --- In a contest that saw 26 runs scored, 33 hits, 12 free bases and 360 pitches thrown, WKU Baseball and Charlotte played to a 13-13 tie on Sunday afternoon when the clubs reached the agreed-upon curfew time after nine complete innings.
The Hilltopper offense featured five multi-hit, five multi-run and four multi-RBI performances, but once again it was right fielder Jake Sanford leading the way. The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, native went 4-for-5 with two runs scored, five driven in and his 14th homerun of the season — a two-run shot to left-center in the seventh — that put WKU ahead by a score of 13-11.
Sanford put an exclamation point on his otherworldly month of March, where he went 30-for-76 with eight walks and slashed .411/.476/1.041 in 18 games. He hit 14 homeruns and four doubles, while scoring 26 runs and knocking in 34. While playing every inning in right field, he had 43 putouts and three outfield assists with zero errors.
After being named Conference USA Hitter of the Week on Monday, Sanford made his best case for back-to-back honors. He went 12-for-20 with two walks and slashed .600/.636/1.400 in four games. He hit five homeruns — including three on Tuesday at Eastern Kentucky — with eight runs scored and 15 batted in.
Following a scoreless first, things got a little crazy.
The Hilltoppers took a 2-0 lead in the second on back-to-back sacrifice flies by shortstop Kevin Lambert and third baseman Sam McElreath. But the 49ers responded with a six-spot in the third with four runs charged to starter Reece Calvert and another two to reliever Collin Lollar after a three-run homerun by designated hitter Rafi Vazquez made it a 6-2 lead for the visitors.
In the bottom of the fourth, WKU tied it up at 6-6 with bases-loaded free bases to left fielder Ray Zuberer II and first baseman Davis Sims, then a two-strike, two-run single by Sanford.
Each club scored five in the fifth frame. Charlotte used five hits and two Hilltopper throwing errors, while WKU used a walk and five hits, including a game-tying, two-out, two-run single by second baseman Jack Wilson as the score reached 11-11.
With the contest tied 11-11 going into the sixth, righty Joe Filosa helped the Hilltoppers hold the 49ers scoreless in the sixth, seventh and eighth frames. The graduate senior toed the rubber in the top of the ninth with a two-run lead, but Charlotte put forth a rally.
With the bases loaded and two outs, WKU appeared to have the game won on a soft ground ball, but a fielding error scored one and extended the inning. Then, with a 1-2 count against first baseman Dominick Cammarata, an inside fastball was ruled to have scraped the arm of the 49er for the game-tying, bases-loaded hit by pitch. Filosa and head coach John Pawlowski argued that the ball ticked the bat of Cammarata instead, but it was to no avail as the umpires congregated in the infield and stuck with the initial ruling.
Filosa remained in the game and got an inning-ending fly out to Sanford in right, then the Hilltoppers went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth against Charlotte righty Colby Bruce. With the clock reading 3:39 p.m., both teams exited their dugouts and met to shake hands on the Nick Denes Field turf.
This is the first 18th tie in WKU history and the first since a 6-6 final at Cumberland (Tenn.) on April 11, 1991, a span of 1,552 games in-between.
Sims went 2-for-4 to with two runs scored and two driven in to push his team-best on-base streak to 22 games.
Swiney went 3-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored, tying his freshman season-high — previously on Feb. 17 vs. Northern Kentucky — with three base hits. Entering the weekend with a .222 batting average, the St. Louis, Mo., native went 6-for-11 to push that number to 261.
"The team's disappointed, obviously, both teams had their chances to win the game but the curfew ended up getting us. I really like the way our team competed, with how we were down in two situations. Give our offense credit, they were relentless again today and put us in a position to win it. Unfortunately we didn't, but take away the positive that we didn't lose either." — Head coach John Pawlowski.
"I don't think that one play won or lost, we had some situations where we had to do some things better and put ourselves in a position to finish that game, and didn't do that today ... We didn't handle the ball well. We had been laying very solid defense, but today was a typical college baseball game with the wind blowing out, a lot of crooked numbers on the scoreboard with a lot of hits and runs scored." — Head coach John Pawlowski.
"It's a weird feeling, you don't expect to tie a game in college baseball ... This game was like a roller coaster, it was up and down, but we just kept battling and sticking with it. This whole series showed that we'll battle through no matter what and we'll fight all the way to the end." — Right fielder Jake Sanford.
"We have a little taste of vinegar in our mouths. We had that seven-game skid but ever since then we've stayed together as a team and we've been playing really good baseball. The first two games showed it, but it sucks we couldn't get a win today ... This team is resilient, we just don't stop fighting until the last out is made and that says a lot about who we are." — First baseman Davis Sims.
WKU travels to Nashville to take on No. 6 Vanderbilt on Tuesday, April 2, with a first pitch time of 6:30 p.m. The Commodores were 22-5 and ranked No. 1 in the RPI heading into Sunday's game, but fell to Tennessee at Hawkins Field by a score of 7-6. The game will be streamed on SEC Network +