Hilltoppers swept in crucial Conference USA series

Graduate student left handed pitcher Ryan Thurston (20) throws a pitch during the first game of a double header against Marshall on April 13 at Nick Denes Field. WKU lost to Marshall 6-5, but came back and won 6-2 in the second game.

Matt Stahl

WKU baseball was swept in its weekend series against Florida International, including the Hilltoppers’ senior day game on Sunday.

The losses drop the Hilltoppers to ninth in the Conference USA standings. The top eight teams make the C-USA Tournament, but now WKU has little time left in the season to make up the ground.

“FIU’s a hot hitting team and swinging the bats well, and we did everything we could to keep it close.” WKU head coach John Pawlowski said in a press release after Saturday’s game. “I thought we did keep it close, just unfortunately were unable to get it done today.”

In Friday’s game, after falling behind 2-0 early, the Hilltoppers scored two in the third and after another two-run inning from FIU, they scored three in the fifth inning to take a 5-4 lead.

WKU was able to hang onto the lead until the seventh, when the Panthers scored two runs to take a lead into the eighth, where they added three more runs. The Hilltoppers were unable to catch up and fell 10-6.

“Give FIU credit, they’re an excellent offensive club and we talked about trying to limit the damage,” Pawlowski said in the press release. “We were in that game and all of the sudden five runs on two swings of the bat and that’s the difference. We didn’t execute in those situations and we have to be better than that.”

On Saturday, WKU got off to an early lead when a first-inning sacrifice fly by senior left fielder Colie Currie scored senior infielder Steven Kraft. The lead did not last as the Panthers scored one each in the second and third, before adding three in the fifth.

WKU was unable to put up much fight offensively, even though they did add one more run in the bottom of the fifth. FIU got an insurance run on the board in the ninth, and won the game 6-3.

“Our defense has been very consistent this year,” Pawlowski said in the press release. “We’ve gotta pitch better than we have recently and we have to find a way to score runs. For us to do what we want to do, we have to have all those facets going well. We need to come out and have a good ballgame tomorrow.”

On Sunday, the Hilltoppers allowed the Panthers to score one in the second, one in the fourth, four in the sixth, one in the seventh and one in the eighth. WKU was able to get four runs on the board in the ninth inning, but it was too little too late and FIU took the 8-4 victory.

With the losses, WKU drops to 21-29 for the year and 11-16 in the Conference USA, dropping them into ninth place in the conference. The Hilltoppers will play at the 23rd ranked Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles on Tuesday before wrapping up the season with a crucial C-USA series at Florida Atlantic.

Reporter Matt Stahl can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @mattstahl97.