Hilltoppers maul Panthers, move to 5-1 in C-USA play

Right handed pitcher junior Eric Crawford (55) pitches the ball towards Northern Kentucky infield freshman Noah Fisher (12) during WKU’s 9-6 win against Northern Kentucky University on Friday, Feb 15 at Nick Denes Field.

Kaden Gaylord

WKU baseball’s 2-1 weekend series win over Conference USA foe Florida International was highlighted by a comeback win in game two and a blowout win in game three.

“Can’t say enough about how hard our group worked all weekend,” WKU head coach John Pawlowski said in a press release. “It’s tough to win on the road, let alone win a series on the road, and FIU has had our number, so it was great for our guys to stand up and fight and find a way to walk out of here winning two out of three.”

Game one saw the pitching of both teams dominate against the opposing offense, as there were only 11 total hits in the game. The Panthers scored a run in the first and sixth innings, while the Hilltoppers were kept off the scoreboard until the ninth, but it wasn’t enough, as FIU took the first game 2-1.

Sophomore pitcher Logan Allen threw 11 strikeouts. He only gave up one run on five hits in 8.2 innings of pitching for the Panthers. Junior pitcher Eric Crawford threw seven strikeouts while only giving up one run on four hits in 4.2 innings of pitching.

Game two was the complete opposite of game one, as the teams put significantly more runs on the board. FIU had a two-run lead heading into the ninth inning before WKU scored three runs on three hits to take the lead. Two of the runs came on wild pitches by the Panthers.

Graduate relief pitcher Joe Filosa came into the bottom of the ninth to get the save and strike out the last two batters to preserve a 5-4 win for the Hilltoppers.

WKU took control right from the start in game three. The Hilltoppers scored five runs in the first two innings and never looked back. The Hilltoppers scored 15 runs on 16 hits with junior Jake Sanford hitting two home runs, totaling 7 RBIs and going 5-for-5 at the plate. WKU won the game 15-1.

Six of the nine players in the starting lineup batted .500 or better and only had seven combined strikeouts. Reece Calvert pitched seven innings, throwing three strikeouts and only giving up one run on four hits.
“Reece Calvert did a great job of damage control in the first inning,” Pawlowski said in the release. “Then for the rest of the game, he really kept the ball down in the zone, located his fastball. Give him credit for seven strong innings.”

The 14-run victory was the Hilltoppers’ second-largest margin of victory this season, only beaten by a 17-run victory over Northern Kentucky.

For the series, Sanford went 4-for-12 from the plate with seven RBIs, seven runs scored and two home runs. Graduate transfer Davis Sims went 5-for-12 with two RBIs, four runs scored and one home run.

The pitching squad only gave up seven runs, while the offense produced 21.

WKU moves to 5-1 in conference play and 11-11 overall on the season. The Hilltoppers’ next game is Tuesday at Eastern Kentucky at 3 p.m. The Hilltoppers return home to Nick Denes Field this weekend for their next series against Charlotte. The first game starts at 5 p.m.

WKU has lost five of its last six games against Charlotte. The 49ers are currently 11-12 and sit in fifth place in the C-USA standings.

The 49ers lost their last series against Marshall and have lost four of their last five games. They play the 20th-ranked Clemson Tigers Tuesday before heading to Bowling Green this weekend.

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