WKU softball finishes 3-2 in Hilltopper Classic after Saturday struggles, moves to 11-4 in 2020

WKU second baseman Morgan Mcelroy bunts the ball while at bat in attempt to take first base on February 23, 2019. WKU defeated the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay 3-0.

Kaden Gaylord

The WKU softball team (11-4) hosted the WKU Hilltopper Classic at the WKU Softball Complex last weekend, kicking off a long home stand that will feature 14 games over three weeks with a 3-2 showing against the other three teams in the tournament field.

The Hilltoppers defeated Green Bay (3-12) twice and Indiana State (5-9) once, but WKU had its nine-game winning streak snapped against Ball State (10-5) on Feb. 22.

“A little disappointed in our performance overall, but proud of the way the team bounced back today — got a shutout and responded with a win to close out the tournament,” head coach Amy Tudor said after WKU’s final game on Sunday afternoon.

FRIDAY

WKU took on Green Bay in the first game of the tournament, and sophomore pitcher Kennedy Sullivan stole the show by hitting the Hilltoppers’ first grand slam since 2018.

After giving up a two-run homer in the second inning, Sullivan came up to bat with the bases loaded in the third inning and sent a pitch soaring beyond the outfield fence.

Sullivan ended her day with two earned runs on one hit, two walks and 10 strikeouts in 5.0 innings in the circle before being replaced by freshman pitcher Katie Gardner.

The Phoenix took advantage of the freshman, as Gardner yielded four runs and three walks on two hits. These miscues allowed Green Bay to tie the game.

Sophomore outfielder Taylor Davis, who finished 4 for 4, hit an RBI single for the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Her hit proved to be enough, as junior pitcher Shelby Nunn closed the game out and earned the decision in a 7-6 win for the Hilltoppers.

Kelsey Aikey took the circle for the second game of the day against ISU, and she dominated the Sycamores all game. The senior only gave up one hit on an infield single, adding a 4-0 shutout to her team’s impressive start to the season.

SATURDAY

The Hilltoppers opened their second day of play against Ball State, the only other undefeated team left in the tournament field after the conclusion of day one.

The Cardinals took advantage of a couple of WKU errors to bring home a pair of runs in the top of the second inning. Senior left fielder Gabby Magnifico sent a two-run shot over the wall to extend the BSU lead to 4-0 in the third inning.

WKU gained some momentum, scoring three runs in the fourth inning after loading the bases on multiple occasions. The Hilltoppers battled back from a 5-3 deficit in the seventh inning to tie the game at 5-5 and send the contest into an extra inning.

BSU first baseman Janae Hogg secured the game-winning RBI after smacking her second solo home run of the day down the right field line in the top of the eighth inning.

WKU had a chance to score in the bottom half, but a fly-out double play ended the game at 6-5 and gave BSU the No. 1 seed for the elimination games later in the day.

About three and a half hours later, the second-seeded Hilltoppers faced No. 3 seed ISU in their second game of the day.

WKU had completely shut down the Sycamores just one day prior, but the opposite happened during the second meeting between the two teams in as many days.

WKU scored two runs in the first and third innings, translating four ISU errors into an early 4-0 lead. The Sycamores battled back after scoring a combined four runs in the fourth and fifth innings, tying the game at 4-4.

ISU took the lead and never looked back after tallying four hits and an RBI single in the sixth inning. The Sycamores capitalized on WKU errors, adding two more runs in the seventh.

The Hilltoppers’ comeback attempts failed, resulting in a 7-5 defeat to cap day two.

SUNDAY

After losing back-to-back games for the first time during the 2020 campaign, WKU looked to get back on track in the consolation game against Green Bay.

WKU scored the game’s first points in the third inning when junior catcher Kendall Smith tallied a two-RBI single to get the Hilltoppers on the board. Junior outfielder Maggie Trgo scored freshman outfielder Brylee Hage in the sixth, giving WKU a 3-0 lead it never relinquished.

Aikey (6-2) showed out on the circle, tying her career-high strikeouts with 13 Ks in another complete-game shutout win.

“I know our hitting started out good in the beginning, but I think it was a little bit of a reality check for us to know how the rest of the season is going to work for us,” Aikey said about the team’s tough weekend. “It’ll pick us up for next weekend.”

UP NEXT

WKU will host the WKU Hilltopper Spring Fling at the WKU Softball Complex this weekend, continuing a long stretch that includes nine more home games over the next two weeks.

The tournament field consists of IUPUI, Illinois State and Austin Peay.

WKU faces IUPUI on Friday at 3 p.m., Illinois State on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and APSU on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Hilltoppers will also play two more games, but those are to be determined.

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