Hilltoppers start C-USA play with sweep of FIU

Senior outfielder Shannon Plese launches a home run during the the Hilltoppers’ win over Indiana State in the WKU Softball Complex on Monday.

Sophie Austin

WKU softball recorded its first sweep of a Conference USA opponent since 2017 with three wins over Florida International. It was the first sweep of FIU since 2013 and only the third time the Hilltoppers have swept the Panthers in school history.

The series started with a double-header on Saturday where the Hilltoppers defeated the Panthers with scores of 6-2 and 4-0. WKU posted a batting average of .333 on Saturday, holding FIU to an average of just .130.

The Hilltoppers had 19 hits over the two games, with five of those coming from senior center fielder Shannon Plese, who made seven appearances at the plate.

Plese added four RBIs and a walk in the games. She has a conference batting average of .406, placing her fourth in C-USA.

WKU struck first in the second inning off a run by senior Rebekah Engelhardt and never trailed in the opener of the weekend series. The Hilltoppers added a total of five more runs in the third and sixth innings to secure the 6-2 win over the Panthers.

Freshman Kennedy Sullivan also played her seventh complete game of the season against the Panthers and earned her first C-USA career win. Shannon Plese, Jordan Thomas, Kennedy Sullivan and Haylee Towers all had multi-hit performances.

Solid performances from sophomore Shelby Nunn and junior Kelsey Aikey led the Hilltoppers to their 4-0 victory over the Panthers in their second game on Saturday.

“I told Shelby, I thought that’s the best she’s pitched all year,” head coach Amy Tudor said in a press release. “She really had her stuff moving and was able to change speeds and looked very steady in the circle. Aikey came in into a clutch situation. She’s definitely our best closer; has that mentality of a closer and was very strong in the circle for us.”

Nunn worked the first 5.2 innings of the game before being replaced by Aikey. Nunn exited the game with five strikeouts, one walk and three hits.

The Hilltoppers added all of their runs in the top of the seventh after six scoreless innings. Aikey came in at the bottom of the seventh, needing only 13 pitches to secure the win for WKU.

“The team’s playing hard and that’s all you can ask for and you have to figure a way to win ball games sometimes,” Tudor said in the release. “I’m really proud of us today.”

WKU pulled off the win in its final game on Sunday even after a late run from the Panthers in which they scored four runs in the sixth inning to bring them to just a one-run deficit. The team was led by senior Jordan Vorbrink, who recorded three hits and her first home run of the season, and Kelsey Aikey, who earned her fourth save of the season.

Kennedy Sullivan, Shelby Nunn and Kelsey Aikey all made appearances in the circle, with Sullivan earning another conference win.

“Anytime you go win on the road, it’s a good day,” Tudor said in the release. “Anytime you can win all three games, it shows you have a solid team that can

play against a lot of different people. We got a lot of different looks and had a lot of people step up this series.”

The series sweep makes the Hilltoppers 3-0 in C-USA.

WKU will be back in action when it travels to Richmond, where the Hilltoppers are scheduled to play Eastern Kentucky. The game is set to begin at 3 p.m.

Reporter Sophie Austin can be reached at 270-745-2653 and [email protected].