Hilltoppers snap losing streak with a pair of walk-offs

Infielder Davis Sims rounds third base heading toward home to score one run during WKU’s win 5-3 against University of Alabama in Nick Denes Field on Sunday, March 17.

Kaden Gaylord

It was a weekend of heroics for WKU baseball, as the Hilltoppers swept Alabama-Birmingham 3-0 and snapped a seven-game losing streak thanks to the help of two walk-off hits.

“Tough series, every game could have went either way. We were very fortunate to win all three games,” head coach John Pawlowski said. “All three games could be decided by one pitch, one play. I just really like the way I thought our team competed from opening pitch Friday night to the last pitch today.”

Game one of the series saw the Hilltoppers come out of the gate swinging, as they scored four runs in the first four innings while shutting out the Blazers. UAB responded by shutting out WKU for the next four innings while putting up two runs each in the sixth and seventh innings to tie the game. WKU won the game 5-4 on a walk-off home run by junior right fielder Jake Sanford.

“I was just thinking drive the ball in the gap and try to get it started, but when I hit it, I knew right away,” Sanford said. “It was really good to get back into it, it’s like a new season right now. We need to start off strong and continue to go through with it.”

Game two saw the Blazers score five runs in the first inning in what looked to be a blowout. But the relief pitching of Colin Lollar allowed the Hilltoppers to slowly catch up. Lollar pitched six innings while only giving up five hits and one run with three strikeouts. Back-to-back RBI singles by Sanford and redshirt junior designated hitter Dillon Nelson propelled WKU’s two runs in the ninth inning to take another walk-off win 6-5.

“For him to go out there and pitch six innings was a tremendous lift for our team, saved our bullpen and certainly helped us today,” Pawlowski said.

In game three, the Hilltoppers took an early 3-0 lead off a three-run home run by Sanford in the first inning and never looked back. The Blazers did their best to keep the game close by scoring two runs in the third, but pitching by both teams kept each other off the board for most of the game. WKU won 5-3.

Sanford went 5 for 13 in his plate appearances with two home runs, five RBI’s and three runs for the series. Graduate transfer infielder Davis Sims went 6 for 13 in his plate appearances and scored three times in the series.

“I think it was great. Pitchers really came out here and stepped up,” Sims said. “On offense, we just killed it this weekend.”

The Hilltoppers’ next game is against Austin Peay Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Nick Denes field. The Governors currently have an 8-9 record and are coming off a sweep against Ohio Valley Conference foe Tennessee Tech. The Hilltoppers haven’t beaten the Governors since 2015. During their three-game losing streak against the Governors, the Hilltoppers have only garnered five runs, while the Governors have scored 29 runs.

After Tuesday’s game, the Hilltoppers will hit the road for four games, a series against conference foe Florida International and a road game against in-state opponent Eastern Kentucky. This will be the first time this season the Hilltoppers will play away from Nick Denes Field.

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