Hilltoppers drop series, continue to slide in C-USA

WKU Hilltoppers stand for the national anthem before the Belmont versus Hilltoppers Game on April 9, 2019 at Nick Denes Field. WKU won the game with a score of 8-7.

Kaden Gaylord

WKU lost its second-straight Conference USA series to Marshall last week 2-1.

But the Hilltoppers put on a confident performance in the final game of a doubleheader on Saturday, escaping with their lone win in three tries against the Thundering Herd.

“We pulled into the park [10 hours ago] at 9 a.m. today and played 27 innings in less than 24 hours. Our concentration and focus were awesome,” head coach John Pawlowski said in a press release. “We stayed the course and found a way to walk out of here with a win, which is so important in this league.”

WKU took a major right hook in the first game, as the Thundering Herd took a 7-0 lead in the first three innings on Friday. Colin Lollar allowed six earned runs on three hits and six walks in 2.1 innings of pitching. The only runs WKU produced were a solo home run from junior first baseman Richard Constantine in the fourth and an RBI single from Jake Sanford in the eighth. Marshall won the game in a landslide, 8-2.

The Hilltoppers came out slow again on Saturday, not registering a run until scoring two in the fourth inning. After putting up another three runs in the top of the sixth, WKU lost all its momentum in the second game of the series. Marshall scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and didn’t look back for the rest of the contest.

The Thundering Herd ultimately won the first half of a doubleheader 11-7. The third game was a complete turnaround for the Hilltoppers, as they came out swinging and earned a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Marshall kept them off the board for the next five innings and scored five runs of their own in the fourth and three more in the sixth.
WKU scored seven runs in the seventh, highlighted by a Constantine three-run homer to give WKU its first lead since the first inning.

The Hilltoppers outscored the Thundering Herd 13-2 in the last three innings of the game, giving WKU a 16-11 win that also erased a potential series sweep for Marshall.

For the series, Sanford went 6-for-13, scoring five runs, one RBI and one home run. Constantine went 2-for-14 with two runs scored, batting in five runs and hitting two home runs. Senior third baseman Nick Brunson went 6-for-13 with three runs and three RBIs. Senior relief pitcher Jacob Green got the lone win on the mound for the Hilltoppers, giving up two earned runs on two hits while striking out four of the 13 batters he faced.

“You want to find a way to come out with a win somehow, and it’s a good feeling. Our mindset was the stay within our approach, get guys on and just keep doing our job like we’ve been doing all year.” Brunson said in the release. “My approach all day was really trying to let the ball get deep and drive it to right field, but then I also got a few pitches middle-in that I turned on.”

WKU currently sits at 16-17-1 (8-6-1 C-USA), recently sliding down to fifth place in the conference standings.

The Hilltoppers will head to Nashville on Tuesday for their next game. WKU will face Belmont just one week after defeating the Bruins 8-7. In that game, the Hilltoppers notched their fifth walk-off win of the year. Game time is set for 4 p.m.

After returning home from Nashville, the Hilltoppers will host their next C-USA series against Florida Atlantic. The Owls currently sit at 24-11 (12-3 C-USA) after they lost their last series against Louisiana Tech this past weekend 2-1.

FAU will take on Central Florida on Tuesday before heading to Bowling Green on Friday. WKU has lost six of its last eight against the Owls and is currently on a two-game losing streak against them. Game 1 is set to start at 5 p.m. on Friday, followed by a 1 p.m. start on Saturday and Sunday.

Baseball reporter Kaden Gaylord can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @_KLG3.