WKU baseball plates 10 runs in win over Austin Peay

WKU’s Kevin Lambert (24) tags second base before Valparaiso catcher Jake Kapers (3) can reach it at Nick Denes Field on Feb. 15, 2020. WKU won 9-3.

Nick Kieser

The WKU baseball team (6-2) hosted Austin Peay (3-5) for its second midweek game of the 2020 season on Tuesday, and the Hilltoppers overpowered the Governors in a 10-5 decision at Nick Denes Field.

WKU previously delayed its season-opening contest against Valparaiso on Feb. 14 and shifted its last midweek contest against Murray State from Murray to Bowling Green on Feb. 19.

Head coach John Pawlowski’s squad was forced to make yet another last-minute adjustment this week, shifting its road game against the Governors from Raymond C. Hand Park in Clarksville, Tennessee, to another home game at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green.

Rain was an unexpected addition to Tuesday’s proceedings, and Pawlowski said he was proud of the Hilltoppers coming together to win a game played under less than ideal conditions.

“It rained and it rained hard, but I thought our players kept their focus and kept their concentration,” Pawlowski said. “We found a way to walk out of here against Austin Peay, who has played very well against us as of late, so I’m glad to see the guys respond and find a way to win today.”

The Governors and WKU last met on May 14, 2019, in Clarksville, Tennessee, where the Hilltoppers fell to the Governors in a high-scoring affair, 20-12.

WKU’s last win against the Governors came via a 22-17 victory on April 25, 2017, as now-senior infielder Kevin Lambert hit back-to-back home runs for the Hilltoppers.

This time out, junior pitcher Riley Boyd was awarded his second start of the season against the Governors after working 4.1 innings in his Hilltopper debut against Murray State last week. 

Boyd finished his outing with four innings of work, allowing four hits while fanning one batter. 

Redshirt junior Collin Lollar came in relief of Boyd and got his first win of the season against the Governors. He tossed 3.2 innings with five strikeouts, giving up one hit and one run. 

Sophomore Hunter Crosby and redshirt junior Bailey Sutton came in to help close the contest for WKU.

“Collin [Lollar] was outstanding,” Pawlowski said. “He came in when the game was still in the balance and he filled up the strike zone. Hunter [Crosby] came in, same thing, and then Bailey [Sutton] was lights out in the ninth inning. When you have those guys down there you feel really good about our bullpen. All of those guys were outstanding tonight.”

Junior pitcher Hayden Josephson started the game for APSU, but junior Griffin Rivers took the loss by tossing 29 pitches, allowing five runs and striking out one Hilltopper.

Offensively, the Hilltoppers produced their highest scoring output of the young season, racking up 10 runs on eight hits and seven walks.

Lambert led the way with a perfect 3 for 3 outing while adding three runs and one RBI. Senior infielder Jack Wilson put together a 2 for 5 performance to go along with three RBI and one run, while Freshman infielder Eric Riffe collected four RBI on the day off of a double and sac fly.

Senior infielder Richard Constantine pounded a hit through APSU sophomore third baseman Gino Avros to grab the first hit of the game in the bottom of the first frame. 

The first run of the game came from the visiting Governors, as junior Bobby Head scored after advancing to third on a wild pitch. Freshman infielder Skyler Luna hit a sacrifice ground out to give APSU a 1-0 lead.

The Hilltoppers’ first few runs came from a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the second frame. Rivers walked sophomore Matthew Meyer with the bases loaded, which scored sophomore Jackson Swiney to tie the game at 1-1.

Following that play, Wilson ripped a base-clearing double to score three runs and give WKU a 4-1 lead over the Governors. APSU then went to its bullpen for the third time, bringing in senior Nolan Monaghan for Rivers. 

Constantine reached first on an error to first base. He hit a ground ball to Governor redshirt senior Max Remy, and the toss to first base was mishandled. Wilson scored on the play to stretch the Hilltopper lead to 5-1. 

WKU continued to erupt after the five-run inning. An interference call was made on Remy to place Swiney on third base and Lambert on second base. Riffe hit an RBI double to right field to widen the WKU advantage to 7-1. 

The Governors returned fire in the top of the fourth inning, scoring three runs to close the APSU deficit to 7-4. 

Luna singled to score sophomore outfielder Garrett Spain, and then junior Ty DeLancey grounded into a double play to score junior Bobby Head. Senior infielder Malcolm Tipler scored on another wild pitch from Boyd.

After 2.1 innings pitched, Monaghan was replaced with redshirt freshman Drew Mcillwain. Lollar relieved Boyd after the fourth inning closed. 

The rain started to come down prior to the next run the Hilltoppers scored. Lambert singled up the first baseline, scoring Swiney to make it 8-4 with two outs remaining in the fifth.

APSU senior pitcher Tucker Weaver came in for Mcillwain as the fifth pitcher used on the day by the Governors. No runs were scored by either program in the sixth inning of play. 

Through three innings of play, Lollar had four strikeouts while allowing no Governors to get a hit. 

Heading into the top of the eighth inning, Luna tossed a long ball from deep right field, tagging a cheating Davis Sims at first base to end the seventh inning.

Crosby came in for Lollar with one out left in the top of the eighth inning. He gave up an RBI single to Luna, making the score 8-5 at the end of the frame’s top half. 

APSU junior Austin Carder came in to close during the bottom of the eighth after Weaver tossed for two innings. Carder gave up two hits and two runs, allowing Lambert and senior catcher Matt Phipps to score for the Hilltoppers. The score was then 10-5. 

Sutton came in to close the game during the final frame of play. He tossed for one inning and fanned three Governor batters, helping WKU claim a five-run win prior to its first road swing.

“We haven’t beat APSU since 2017, so it was nice to come out here and get the win tonight,” Lambert said postgame. “Our offense — we’re just resilient, we’re competitors. No matter what, we’re going to get quality at-bats. We’re just going to find ways to score runs.”

UP NEXT

WKU will be back in action on the road later this week, traveling to USC Upstate (7-1) for a three-game set on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“We’ll just need some solid defense and some at-bats and we will be successful,” Lambert said about the team having success on the road.

The Spartans call Spartanburg, South Carolina, their home. WKU and USC Upstate will get going at 3 p.m., 1 p.m. and noon, respectively, during WKU’s first weekend road swing.

Reporter Nick Kieser can be reached at [email protected] Follow Nick on Twitter at @KieserNick.