WKU takes down North Dakota State, Bergeron leads Hilltoppers to comeback victory

WKU Junior pitcher Sean Bergeron (23) delivers a pitch during their game against North Dakota State on Sunday, February 21, 2021 in Bowling Green, Ky.

Wyatt Sparkman

The WKU baseball team (1-0) opened its season against North Dakota State (0-1) on Sunday night after their original season opener was postponed due to inclement weather. WKU won its home opener 10-4.

“Senior leadership is always very important and we talked about the seniors that decided to come back this year, that leadership they can provide both on and off the field.” head coach John Pawlowski said.

Pawlowski went on to say his lineup has been together for a while and also been through some battles. This team won’t get down and they know what they have to do and their confident in their approach. 

In WKU’s season opener, senior center fielder Ray Zuberer III had two hits while batting in four RBIs. 

Senior shortstop Bennett Hostetler for the Bison came up with two hits, a double and triple while batting in two runs. 

Sophomore pitcher Jake Kates recorded his first win of the season in 4.1 innings of play allowing one hit and zero runs while striking out seven batters.

“He’s got a lot of weapons he can use, he can come out and he’s got three pitches he can use, he’s around the zone, and you look at what he did last year to continue to go out there and dominate,” Pawlowski said of Kates. 

North Dakota State senior pitcher Parker Harm recorded his first loss of the season pitching two innings of play allowing two hits and three runs. 

Junior Sean Bergeron trotted to the mound to start the game for the Hilltoppers to kick off the 2021 campaign. He would toss for 4.2 innings allowing six hits and 4 runs scored. 

True freshman Cade Feeney got the start for North Dakota State in the bottom of the first inning. He tossed for 3.1 innings allowing seven hits and three runs to the Hilltoppers. 

Sophomore Brock Anderson was the first batter up for the Bison. Anderson got a single to start off the game for the Bison. Senior Bennett Hostetler scored the first run of the game with a double to left field scoring Anderson from second base making the game 1-0. Senior Tucker Rohde scored the second run of the first inning by hitting a sacrifice ball to centerfield scoring Brookshaw from third making it 2-0 Bison. 

Bergeron struck out junior Charley Hesse to get his first strikeout of the season. Junior Calen Schwabe grounded into an out to get the Hilltoppers to the plate. 

The Hilltoppers went three up and three down to start their season off as Feeney struck out two batters. Senior Jack Wilson was the first batter at the plate for the Hilltoppers to start the season. Wilson struck out to start the bottom of the first for the Hilltoppers.

Then the Bison went three up and three down in the top of the second as Bergeron dealt three strikeouts to retire the side.

Sophomore Jackson Swiney notched the first hit for the Hilltoppers with a triple. Later in the inning sophomore Jackson Gray hit a single to score Swiney for the Hilltoppers’ first run of the season cutting the deficit to 2-1 Bison. WKU left two runners on base with one in scoring position to end the second inning. 

Anderson hit a single to left field to start the third inning for the Bison. Senior Bennett Hostetler scored Anderson from first with an RBI triple making it 3-1 Bison. Rohde then scored Hostetler from third to extend the Bison lead to 4-1. 

Hesse hit a ground ball to WKU senior shortstop Kevin Lambert who made a beautiful double play to get the Hilltoppers out of the third. 

Senior Richard Constantine got the Hilltoppers started in the bottom of the third with a single. Then graduate Davis Sims hit a two-out double to put Constantine and him into scoring position. Swiney then popped up to leave both stranded to end the third frame. 

The Bison went three up and three out to begin the fourth inning. WKU senior catcher Matt Phipps hit a double. Then Gray then singled Phipps to third base. Lambert then hit an RBI infield single to score Phipps cutting the Bison lead to 4-2. 

Senior pitcher Parker Harm came in for Feeney in the bottom of the fourth with one out. Harm then allowed a run off a sacrifice from Swiney scoring Lambert to make it 4-3 Bison. Harm got out of the inning by getting Constantine to ground out. 

Bergeron got the first two batters for the Bison out to start off the fifth inning. Then Jake Kates came in for Bergeron with two outs left in the top of the inning. 

“Every game I’m expecting to get on the mound, you never know and you just always have to be prepared,” Kates said. “It feels awesome to finally get back at it, this is probably the longest that I’ve gone and probably in the clubhouse has gone without actually playing a baseball game.”

Kates struck out Brookshaw for another three up and three down inning for the Bison. 

Ray Zuberer III was walked by Harm to start the inning for the Hilltoppers. Zuberer III then stole second base to put himself into scoring position with one out left in the inning. Zuberer III was ultimately stranded on second base when Harm struck out Phipps to end the fifth inning. 

Hostetler was walked to start the sixth frame becoming the first Bison on base in over two innings. Rohde hit a fielder’s choice and Hostetler was able to reach first base due to a bad throw from Lambert. Kates then struck out Hesse to record the second out of the top of the sixth inning. 

Junior center fielder Calen Schwabe hit a single to advance Rohde to second base. Emanuel then struck out leaving both Rohde and Schwabe on base to end the bottom half of the sixth. 

Gray hit a lazy ball right to Harm, but Harm overthrew Anderson to allow Gary to reach second base on an error. Harm recorded a strikeout on Lambert to get the first out of the bottom of the sixth inning. Harm then walked the next two batters loading the bases with one out. Constantine with the bases loaded singled in Gray to even up the score 4-4. 

Zuberer III with the bases loaded scored freshman third baseman Eric Riffe and Wilson giving the Hilltoppers its first lead of the game 6-4. 

“In the past, I’ve been known to not be a clutch performer when it comes up to stuff like that, but it was a big hit.” Zuberer III said. “And I got very excited and I just wanted to put a good swing on the ball, and I’m glad that I could help us out.” 

The Bison made a pitching switch after that hit to bring in junior pitcher Jake Drew for Harm. Bruchu then recorded two straight outs to end a disastrous sixth inning for the Bison. 

The Bison had another three up and three down inning to start the seventh. 

The Hilltoppers got off to a hot start in the seventh, its first three batters reached base to load the bases. Drew was able to record two straight outs before Constantine hit a double scoring two more runs to extend the Hilltopper lead to 8-4. 

Zuberer III then singled to score two more putting the Hilltopper lead to 10-4. Drew walks Sims to put another Hilltopper on base in the seventh. Drew got out of the inning by striking out Swiney.

Kates struck out Brookshaw to start the eighth inning. Kates walked Hostetler but then proceeded to get two straight outs to end the top of the eighth. 

To start the bottom of the eighth the Bison made their third pitching change of the game bringing in junior pitcher Hunter Koep for Drew. Koep recorded a three up and three down inning for the Bison. 

Bison went three up and three down once again to end the game. 

Up next 

The Hilltoppers continue their series against North Dakota State at home in a doubleheader starting at noon on Monday. 

Baseball beat reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]