Hilltoppers win first C-USA series as Tudor gets 350th win

OF Kelsey Mcguffin prepares to swing during a game against Austin Peay. Mcguffin led WKU with a .444 hitting percentage at the C-USA Tournament. The Lady Toppers lost to the Austin Peay Governors on March 2. at the WKU softball complex.

Casey McCarthy

WKU softball (17-7, 2-1) swept its doubleheader Saturday against University of Southern Mississippi (10-14, 1-2) on the road. The two wins led to a series victory in WKU’s first Conference USA series of the season. 

The series win secured the team’s seventh-straight conference-opening series victory. The Hilltoppers went 2-1 on the weekend. Head coach Amy Tudor picked up wins 350 and 351 for her career with the team’s victories Saturday.

“Winning a series on the road is always big,” Tudor said in a press release. “We swung the bats well for two of the three games, and I think there are things we can learn from this game and take those lessons with us down the road.”

Junior Jordan Vorbrink went 5 for 5 on Saturday, with three multi-hit efforts this year already. With a pair of triples on the weekend, the team now has 10 on the season. The Hilltoppers have knocked multiple triples in three games in the 2018 campaign.

The Hilltoppers opened the weekend with their sixth run-rule victory this year, downing the Golden Eagles 11-3 in five innings. Down 1-0 going into the third, WKU responded with a run of its own, adding another one in the fourth. The Hilltoppers put Southern Miss away with a monstrous fifth inning, notching eight runs, including a two-run homer from sophomore Rebekah Engelhardt.

The Golden Eagles responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth, but couldn’t bring themselves out of the hole. Freshman Shelby Nunn improved to 11-4 on the year, picking up the decision while striking out two on five hits. Sophomore Kelsey Aikey pitched the final 0.1 inning.

In the second game of the doubleheader on Saturday, WKU defeated Southern Miss 4-1, thanks in part to a big day from Aikey in the circle. Aikey had seven strikeouts on the day, matching her career mark by throwing 67 strikes on 97 pitches. It was Aikey’s third complete game on the season.

Three Hilltoppers, Engelhardt, sophomore Paige Carter, and Junior Kelsey McGuffin, had multiple hits in the game. The Hilltoppers outhit Southern Miss 10-3.

“We did a great job in all aspects of the game [Saturday],” Tudor said in a press release. “Aikey and Nunn both held it down in the circle, we played good defense behind them and showed up offensively throughout the lineup. Jordan Vorbrink stepped up huge for us today. She was focused and came through with hit and hit.”

WKU closed out the weekend with a tough loss, dropping the final game of the weekend on Sunday by a score of 2-0 in extra innings. Southern Miss junior Samantha Papp knocked a two-run home run over the right field wall for the walk-off victory.

Freshman Maddie Bowlds went 3 for 4 on the day for the Hilltoppers. Aikey took the loss, moving to 5-2 on the year after she pitched the final four innings. Aikey gave up four hits and recorded three strikeouts. Shelby Nunn pitched the first six innings, with three strikeouts, giving up three hits.

The Hilltoppers continue their road trip as they head to face LSU on Tuesday, March 13, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, before facing South Alabama the next day in Mobile, Alabama.

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