Hilltoppers fall one run shy at Kentucky

Sophomore Devyn Terbrak pitching against Kentucky on March 9, 2021. The Hilltoppers fell 6-5 to the Wildcats. 

Wyatt Sparkman

WKU (4-7) traveled up to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats (8-2) for a midweek matchup to wrap up a four game road trip. The Hilltoppers fell 6-5 after compiling eight hits.

Sophomore Devyn Terbrak made his second appearance of the season for the Hilltoppers against the Wildcats. Both appearances for the lefty have come against Power Five opponents, playing three innings at Vanderbilt back on Feb. 24. 

Terbrak went on to toss for five innings while striking out two Wildcat batters. Kentucky mustered four hits on Terbrak. 

“I thought he made one big mechanical adjustment that allowed him to repeat his delivery.” head coach John Pawlowski said. “Once he was able to repeat his delivery, I thought he did exactly what we hoped he would do, and went out there and did a great job for us.”  

Freshman Ryan Hagenow started on the bump for Kentucky against WKU. He went on to toss 3.2 innings while striking out six Hilltopper batters. Hagenow allowed two hits and two runs.

For WKU, graduate Davis Sims went 2-for-3 with one RBI. Junior Trae Harmon went 2-for-4 for Kentucky while batting in two runs.  

The WKU bats had nothing to show for in the top of the first inning. Terbrak walked Kentucky’s first batter of the game to start the bottom of the first inning. Kentucky then scored the first run of the game as sophomore John Rhodes hit an RBI double to left field. WKU got out of the first inning with two straight flyouts.

Through three innings of the play, the respective pitchers were in a dual. Trebrak let up one hit, and Hagenow had thrown six strikeouts while allowing one WKU runner on base. 

WKU got the bats going in the top of the fourth inning with two straight singles. After a wild pitch that advanced both runners to second and third base, graduate Davis Sims scored WKU’s first run of the game on a fielder’s choice. Sophomore Jackson Gray scored the second run for WKU after reaching third base on an error, then scoring on a wild pitch. 

After Hagenow hit and walked the next two WKU batters, Kentucky made a pitching change putting in senior Holt Jones. The senior got Kentucky out of the top of the fourth inning with a fly-out. Kentucky could not answer in the bottom of the fourth frame. 

In the top of the fifth Ray Zuberer III was able to reach third base on an error, but the WKU batters left him stranded to end the top of the frame. In the bottom of the fifth frame, Kentucky led off with a single to right field. 

Junior Austin Schultz then hit an RBI double tying the game up at two apiece. Schultz was left stranded after a Terbrak strikeout to end the fifth inning.  

After a three up and three down to begin the sixth frame, WKU made a pitching change going to junior Ryan O’Connell to start the bottom of the sixth inning. 

Kentucky started to get hot in the bottom of the sixth with a lead-off single, then an RBI double by junior Trae Harmon to give Kentucky the lead back. Harmon was able to score on an RBI single to make the score 4-2.

WKU then replaced O’Connell for redshirt sophomore Aaron Shiflet. He got WKU out of the sixth inning, but not before Kentucky tacked on another run to extend their lead 5-2.

“I was really encouraged by what Shiflet did,” Pawlowski said, “He came in and threw some strikes and threw his breaking ball for strikes.”  

Graduate Zach Kammin came in relief of Jones to start the seventh inning for Kentucky. WKU started the seventh inning off on a hot start loading the bases with one out off two singles then a walk. 

WKU was then able to cut into the Kentucky lead on an RBI single from Sims, then sophomore Matthew Meyer scored on a wild pitch. Senior Daniel Harper then came in relief for Kammin. Harper got Kentucky out of the top of the seventh inning, but not before WKU tied the game at five apiece on a sacrifice fly.

Kentucky reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the seventh after Rhodes singled, then Harmon batted him in on an RBI single. WKU got out of the inning on a ground out. 

Both teams made pitching changes in the eighth inning. Freshman Austin Stickland came in for Kentucky for Harper and freshman Luke Stofel came in for Shiflet for WKU. Both freshman pitchers did their job as both teams went three up and three down in the eighth frame. 

Senior Sean Harney came in in relief of Strickland in the top of the ninth inning to close out the game for Kentucky. Meyer got WKU off to a hot start with a double to begin the inning. Sims then was hit by a pitch with one out to put WKU runners on first and second base. 

Harney then closed out the game for Kentucky with a strikeout and a pop-up to second base. Kentucky won 6-5. 

Up next the Hilltoppers host Bowling Green State (2-4) for a four game series this weekend.

“We’re going to move into four games, so it’s probably a good idea to play four this weekend just because of the fact that we need to get used to playing four on the weekend before we get to conference play,” Pawlowski said.  

Baseball beat reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Wyatt on Twitter at @WyattSparkman3