Hilltoppers struggle in spring break competition


Casey McCarthy

WKU Softball (18-11, 3-3) dropped their home series this weekend against Middle Tennessee State University, losing the rubber match Sunday, 5-2 in extra innings. The series loss ends a tumultuous week for a WKU softball team that had been red hot at the start of the season.

Including a pair of non-conference games during the week, WKU is just 1-4 in its previous five games after opening the season 17-7. Despite these struggles, the team has continued to impress offensively.

WKU holds the second-best record in Conference USA. WKU leads the conference in runs earned, doubles, triples, RBIs, total bases, slugging percentage, walks drawn and on-base percentage. The Hilltoppers rank second in batting average, hits and home runs.

In the game against the Blue Raiders Sunday, the Hilltoppers held the lead going into the top of the seventh. Surrendering three runs in the top of the eighth, the Hilltoppers were unable to answer in the bottom of the inning. WKU was able to jump on the board first in the bottom of the third, but MTSU quickly responded in the fourth. An RBI from sophomore Paige Carter in the fifth looked like it would be enough to secure the victory until the Blue Raiders responded in the seventh.

Freshman Shelby Nunn (12-8) took the loss, pitching the final four innings after relieving sophomore Kelsey Aikey in the fifth. She surrendered four earned runs on nine hits recorded and one strikeout. Aikey surrendered one hit, a home run, pitching four innings.

WKU split its doubleheader against MTSU Saturday. The Blue Raiders took the first game of the day, 7-4, behind a big first inning that ended in five earned runs. The Hilltoppers responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning, but were unable to close the gap. The win snapped WKU’s five-game winning streak against MTSU.

Junior Kelsey McGuffin hit her third home run of the year, her first of two on the day, a three-run bomb in the bottom of the first. Nunn picked up the loss in the circle despite being replaced in the top of the first by Kelsey Aikey. Aikey had four strikeouts, surrendering two runs on five hits in relief.  

The Hilltoppers took the second game of the afternoon Saturday, 8-6, in a hard fought battle that saw both teams trading runs for most of the game. The Blue Raiders held a 2-0 lead before McGuffin hit her second home run of the day to tie the game up. Both teams added three runs in the third before the Hilltoppers were able to pull ahead with runs in the bottom of the fourth and fifth. Head coach Amy Tudor discussed different people stepping up for the Hilltoppers throughout the day despite early errors.

“Kelsey McGuffin stepped up huge for us in game one while three freshmen came up with some clutch hitting in the second game,” Tudor said.

Freshmen Jordan Thomas and Shelby Nunn both had home runs in the game as well, with Nunn having her first plate appearance and first collegiate home run in the same game. Nunn took the decision in the circle as well, pitching four innings in relief with one strikeout and one earned run on six hits.  

WKU played two non-conference games to end its spring break road trip last week. The Hilltoppers fell to number eight-ranked LSU 7-3, and lost to University of South Alabama 8-0.

With no conference games this weekend, the Hilltoppers are set to face Jacksonville State, March 22, at home, with no games scheduled this weekend.