WKU softball blasts Belmont, records 3rd consecutive run-rule victory over struggling Bruins

WKU’s Kelsey Aikey pitches in the first inning versus Austin Peay on Friday. Kennedy Sullivan also pitched during the game, the two allowing only 7 hits by Austin Peay.

Kaden Gaylord

The WKU softball team (17-4) played its first midweek game of the 2020 campaign at the WKU Softball Complex on Wednesday, continuing its current 14-game home stand with a 10-0 run-rule win against Belmont (2-11), its third straight five-inning victory.

Wednesday’s contest against the Bruins marked the first of five midweek contests the Hilltoppers will host at the WKU Softball Complex this season. WKU is now on a seven-game winning streak and owns a 9-2 record when playing at home this season.

WKU’s three straight five-inning victories mark just the third time the program has achieved the feat. The last time the Hilltoppers had done so was 2013 with three straight five-inning wins and a six-inning run-rule victory. The same four-game combination also occurred during the 2000 campaign.

Sophomore pitcher/outfielder Kennedy Sullivan (4-1) finished with three hits, four walks and nine strikeouts during a complete-game shutout win in the circle. The multifaceted star also went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and two runs scored swinging the bat for the Hilltoppers.

Freshman infielder Taylor Sanders went 2 for 2 with two RBIs and her third home run of 2020, while freshman shortstop TJ Webster recorded one hit with two RBIs and a walk.

“You have to give credit to great pitching in the circle and also throughout the lineup,” head coach Amy Tudor said. “One through nine, anybody can hit, and we kind of passed the bat around. They are learning how to close the door and that is important.”

Sullivan opened the game with three strikeouts, getting some early momentum rolling for the Hilltoppers.

The WKU offense took the positive momentum into the second inning, scoring three runs to get on the board first. An RBI triple from Sanders sparked the scoring run, and Webster followed it up with a two-RBI single up the middle. 

WKU took advantage of its speed and several mental errors from Belmont, scoring two runs in the third inning off of stolen bases.

Sullivan kept it going on the mound, racking up more strikeouts to add to her season total and keeping the Bruins off the board whenever they were in position to do any damage.

All the momentum was in favor of the Hilltoppers after WKU scored five runs in three innings, and the fourth frame ultimately proved to be the dagger in Belmont’s heart.

WKU started its offensive onslaught off with a solo homerun from Sanders, her third of the season. The bags filled up with Hilltoppers, leaving the bases loaded when Sullivan, who already had two grand slams this season, stepped up to the plate.

A two-RBI single from Sullivan put WKU at the eight-run mark, making the mercy rule a possible outcome for the Hilltoppers’ first midweek matchup.

Another throwing error led to sophomore left fielder Taylor Davis crossing home plate, and a sacrifice fly from junior catcher Kendall Smith allowed Sullivan to score, giving the Hilltoppers five runs in the fourth inning and 10 total for the game. 

Sullivan closed out the night in the circle, getting the the complete-game shutout and the team’s sixth shutout of the season. She also helped secure WKU’s third straight, and fourth overall, five-inning win.

“Hopefully as this season continues we are able to close the door whether it’s the fifth, seventh, eighth, ninth — it doesn’t matter to me,” Tudor said. “But learning how to close out games is huge.”

WKU now leads the all-time series against Belmont 30-1, with the lone setback coming in 2017, which was previously the most recent meeting between the two sides.

UP NEXT

WKU will be back in action at the WKU Softball Complex later this week, continuing a long stretch that includes three more home games before its next road swing.

The Hilltoppers will open Conference USA play with a three-game set against archrival Middle Tennessee State (13-10) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The WKU softball program announced Wednesday that its C-USA opener had been moved up to a 3 p.m. start time from its originally scheduled 6 p.m. first pitch.

WKU now faces the Blue Raiders at 3 p.m., 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively, across the weekend.

Reporter Kaden Gaylord can be reached at [email protected] Follow Kaden on Twitter at @_KLG3.