Hilltoppers stop slide with series win

WKU’s Nick Brunson catches a late throw to second base against FAU on Sunday. Brunson still tagged a career high three players out in the 6-4 loss to the Owls at Nick Denes Field.

Kaden Gaylord

WKU won its series against Texas-San Antonio 2-1, ending the Hilltoppers’ Conference USA series losing streak.

The Hilltoppers now sit at 20-21-1 and 11-9-1 in C-USA play.

“This win came from deep down inside, that was a gutsy win today. We’re down a few guys, but the offense kept grinding,” head coach John Pawlowski said in a press release. “This was a tough weekend against a very good club on the road, so it was great for us to win two out of three.”

In the first game, the Hilltoppers started like they have for much of the season, giving up early runs and falling behind. After giving up two runs in the first, redshirt senior pitcher Reece Calvert didn’t give up another one for the rest of his time on the mound.

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Bailey Sutton only gave up one hit and one run after taking over for Calvert. WKU outscored UTSA 5-1 for the remainder of the game, winning by a final score of 5-3.

In the second game, both teams came out on fire offensively, each scoring five runs in the first three innings. The teams matched each other for runs scored throughout the game, but the difference came in the seventh inning.

The Roadrunners rallied to score seven runs, which ultimately was the difference maker in the game, giving them a 17-12 win. The 17 runs were the most the Hilltoppers have allowed an opponent to score, surpassing the 15 runs scored by Kentucky twice.

The third game only saw six runs scored combined, both teams’ second-lowest scoring game of the year. Even though it was low-scoring, the Hilltoppers managed to get 10 hits compared to the Roadrunners’ two.

An RBI single in the ninth by junior Matt Phipps gave WKU a two-run cushion, resulting in the 4-2 win, giving the Hilltoppers their first C-USA series win since they picked up two victories over Charlotte on the weekend of March 29.

“Baseball’s a funny game, you just have to keep grinding out at-bats,” Phipps said.

“I struggled on Friday, but I kept my approach, kept confident and kept swinging. Collin Hopkins did a great job behind the plate this whole weekend. Right now, wherever you go, you need to fill in and do your job.”

For the series, junior right fielder Jack Wilson went 7 for 14 with four runs scored and two RBIs. Phipps went 7 for 16 with three runs scored and five RBIs.

Sutton gave up one hit and one earned run with eight strikeouts in a combined 4.2 innings of pitching. He earned a win in the first game and a save in the third.

The Hilltoppers’ next game is on the road against eighth-ranked Louisville. The Cardinals are coming off their series sweep against Alabama A&M, which included a 32-1 victory last Friday.

Louisville has won 12 of its last 13 games and has only given up six or more runs in four of those games. WKU is 0-1 against ranked opponents this season, losing to Vanderbilt 5-4 in a game that went into extra innings.

Louisville is currently 35-9 (15-6 ACC) and 23-5 at home. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.

After the Hilltoppers travel to Louisville, they will be back at home for the next C-USA series against Rice. Rice won its last series against 18th-ranked Louisiana Tech.

The Owls are currently on a hot streak, as they’ve won their last six games, sweeping their last two C-USA opponents. Rice is currently tied for fifth in the conference standings.

The Owls are 1-9 when giving up 10 runs or more in games. The Hilltoppers have scored over 10 runs in nine games and have gone 7-2 in those games.

Rice is currently 21-23 (12-9 C-USA) and 6-8 on the road. First pitch on Friday is set for 5 p.m., followed by 1 p.m. start times on Saturday and Sunday.

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