Hilltopper pitching struggles to stop middle of UTSA lineup

WKU redshirt senior pitcher Ben Morrison (10) throws against UTSA players during WKU’s victory over UTSA 9-5 on Saturday, March 31 at Nick Denes Field.

Tyler Eaton

WKU baseball dropped a conference series to Texas-San Antonio, unable to stop the heart of the UTSA lineup.

WKU is now 14-14 on the season and sit at 4-5 in Conference USA play. The series saw WKU lose the first two games of the series by a combined score of 15-4.

The three and four hitters for the Roadrunners, Trent Bowles and Ben Brookover, knocked in all five of UTSA’s runs in WKU’s 5-0 loss to start the series, with Brookover hitting a grand slam in the top of the eighth to put the Hilltoppers away.

In game two of the series, Bowles doubled four times and scored three times, and Brookover hit a three-run homerun in what was a 10-4 loss for the Hilltoppers.

“That dude is really good,” sophomore left fielder Ray Zuberer III said about Bowles. “He hit bomb after bomb, but we kept him in check.”

For the Hilltoppers, keeping Bowles in check was giving up an RBI double and a solo homerun, as well as two runs. Brookover had an RBI single as well, but the Hilltoppers came to life at the plate to prevent the sweep.

“We got down two-to-nothing in the first inning,” WKU head coach John Pawlowski said. “But we put a four spot in the first inning. What a response that was, and it gave our team a lot of confidence.”

WKU scored all four of those first inning runs with two outs, and seven of the nine runs the team brought across the plate in the 9-5 victory were scored with two outs.

“We’ve gone through streaks where we haven’t been very good with two outs,” Pawlowski said. “Our guys kept battling, and we were fortunate because those two-out runs made the difference today.”

Freshman outfielder Luke Brown knocked in the first two runs for the Hilltoppers on a two-out double with the bases loaded in the first. In the fifth, senior infielder Steven Kraft brought home two more in another bases loaded, two out situation with a single.

“Our guys have worked so hard,” Pawlowski said. “We had bases loaded and then two strikeouts and Steven Kraft gets a base hit. I’m very proud of what we did offensively.”

Another takeaway for the Hilltoppers was the success of their bullpen. Of the 20 runs UTSA scored in the series, only three of them were earned off of WKU’s bullpen.

In the win on Saturday, redshirt senior Ben Morrison and junior Jacob Green combined to throw five scoreless innings for the Hilltoppers, with Morrison earning the win.

“Ben’s done that this whole year,” Pawlowski said. “He’s been outstanding. He’s the guy that we want out of the bullpen. I’m really proud of what him and Jacob Green did out of our bullpen.”

Following the series loss to UTSA, the Hilltoppers will face Murray State on Tuesday before heading to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for a three game weekend series with the University of Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles are currently ranked 14th in the country.

“We have to win the Murray State game to get some more momentum headed into the weekend,” Zuberer said. “Southern Miss is a really good ball club. They’re really good, and we’ll have to come prepared next weekend.”

Reporter Tyler Eaton can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler_eaton1022