Hilltoppers drop fourth straight in series loss

Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Aikey (12) winds up for a pitch during the first game of a double header against Eastern Kentucky University on April 11 at the WKU Softball Complex. The Lady Toppers defeated EKU 6-3 in the first game and lost 4-8 in the second.

Casey McCarthy

The WKU softball team suffered a series sweep on the road against Alabama-Birmingham last weekend.

WKU (24-18, 7-8 C-USA) lost all three games of its Conference USA series against UAB, while splitting a mid-week non-conference series against Eastern Kentucky Wednesday.

The Hilltoppers took game one of Wednesday’s doubleheader against EKU, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. EKU responded with a three-run third inning. Both teams added runs in the fifth and sixth, with EKU unable to cut the deficit, giving WKU the 6-3 victory.

EKU won game two, opening up an 8-4 lead in the top of the seventh to secure the doubleheader split. Sophomore Paige Carter hit a home run for WKU in the fifth, tying her for the team lead with four. The team total is up to 29 on the season.

Despite splitting the doubleheader, head coach Amy Tudor was happy with the team’s attitude in the series.

“I thought we swung the bat pretty well today and that we played some good defense behind our pitchers,” Tudor said. “Kelsey Aikey had a great day in the circle and overall our team morale was up, which is something we’ve been talking about. I felt like the team was in it today and we’re using these two games to prepare for UAB.”

WKU dropped both games in the weekend’s opening doubleheader in dramatic fashion. On Friday, WKU carried a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth before UAB responded. The Blazers notched their first run of the weekend to cut the deficit to 2-1 going into the final frame. In the bottom of the seventh, down to their final strike, the Blazers managed to smack a three-run home run to get a 3-2 win.

Aikey (10-6) pitched the complete game, her fifth of the season, surrendering three runs on four hits, with two strikeouts. She threw 87 of her 140 pitches for strikes.

WKU scored first in the second game with a sacrifice fly that brought sophomore Paige Carter across the plate. UAB responded with three runs in the top of the sixth inning to take the 3-1 lead. The Hilltoppers managed to cut the deficit to 3-2 in the final frame of the game, but were unable to tie the game. Senior Brittany Vaughn was tagged for the final out at the plate.

Freshman Shelby Nunn (13-10) pitched the complete game, allowing three runs on four hits, with two strikeouts.

With the series already in the Blazers’ hands, the Hilltoppers looked to avoid the sweep on Saturday as they took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth. UAB was again able to respond in the bottom of the sixth, tying the game 3-3. The game remained tied and went into extra innings. In the top of the 11th inning, the Blazers were able to secure the winning run on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to secure the series sweep.

Nunn started and finished the game, pitching 5.1 innings, with three runs on seven hits and one strikeout. Aikey, who pitched five innings in relief, took the decision. She surrendered one run on five hits.

The Hilltoppers have a midweek battle against No. 19 Kentucky at home on Wednesday before a C-USA series against Marshall at home this weekend, kicking off Friday.

Reporter Casey McCarthy can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]