Lady Toppers putting up big numbers thanks to top-tier offense

Freshman Shelby Nunn pitches during WKU’s second game of the Hilltopper Classic tournament that was hosted at WKU’s softball complex on Friday, Feb. 23. WKU lost to the Toledo Rockets with a final score of 1-0.

Casey McCarthy

WKU softball continues to impress in the early part of the regular season, as the Lady Toppers are boasting one of the top statistical offenses in the nation.

WKU (11-4) finished the Hilltopper Classic with a 3-1 record through adverse weather. With a win in their second straight home opener, the Lady Toppers are now 4-1 in home openers under head coach Amy Tudor, 12-7 overall. WKU entered the weekend leading the nation in doubles per game, at 2.4 per game. The Lady Toppers also rank near the top-10 nationally in batting average, on-base percentage and scoring.  

Senior Brittany Vaughn, who had a home run in the final game to go along with a multitude of impressive plays in the field, including a jumping tag-out at second base, reiterated that the team’s underclassmen don’t act like underclassmen.

“It’s not just one person has to be hot the whole time,” Vaughn said. “It’s kind of like a mix of everyone, and we’re excited to continue that.”

Sophomore Paige Carter leads the Lady Toppers batting barrage, hitting a blistering .512 with seven multi-hit games on the year already. Freshman Maddie Bowlds has been impressive as well with two multi-hit games in the series. She’s currently hitting .400 for the year. Five other Lady Toppers have averages over .300 as well.

As a team, WKU’s average of .349 is considerably higher than the team’s mark at this time last season, .227. While last year’s squad was able to generate more home runs at this point in the year, the Lady Toppers attack has become more balanced this season.  

Compared to the 2017 season, WKU has generated over twice as many hits, almost 30 more runs, and over 40 more RBIs. The Lady Toppers will look to continue their searing start as they push towards conference play.  

“Obviously our hitting is still going well,” Vaughn said. “Every aspect of softball you can always improve on.”

WKU opened the weekend slate with its fifth run-rule victory of the year, defeating University of Wisconsin-Green Bay 10-0 in five innings. A pair of triples from Vaughn and Carter opened the scoring, and the Lady Toppers never let up. Carter matched her season-high RBI total with three on the game, as Vaughn turned in a 3-for-3 performance at the plate, her second-straight three-hit performance.  

Sophomore Haylee Towers picked up her first decision of the year, pitching four scoreless innings and allowing just three hits. WKU’s offense failed to find the plate in the team’s lone loss on the weekend, dropping the second game Friday to Toledo, 1-0. Bowlds finished with her second multi-hit performance of the day as freshman Shelby Nunn pitched her fifth and sixth complete games on the year this weekend.

“I thought [Friday] was a great day for our pitching staff,” head coach Amy Tudor said in a press release. “We executed our pitches and had a great presence on the mound. Shelby took a tough loss in the circle but threw well enough to win.”

In a Saturday slate shortened by severe weather, WKU used a big first inning, notching five runs, to put Indiana State in a hole early. The Lady Toppers never let up, with Paige Carter hitting a three-run home run, her second of the year, off the parking garage. Carter, McGuffin and junior Jordan Vorbrink all registered multi-hit performances on the day, as Nunn picked up her second decision of the weekend.   

The Lady Toppers closed the weekend slate with a pair of wins Sunday, coming from behind to defeat Green Bay 6-5, before defeating Indiana State 6-2 in the final game of the weekend.  

Down 3-0 going into the bottom of the fourth inning, WKU responded with five runs on four hits to take the lead, adding a sixth run in the bottom of the fifth. Green Bay responded with two runs in the top of the sixth but was unable to make up the deficit.

WKU closed out Sunday evening, getting off to another fast start, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first against Indiana State University. Vaughn launched a ball towards center field that bounced off the fielder’s glove and over the wall for a two-run homer. The Sycamores responded with runs in the third and fourth. They generated hits but were unable to turn them into runs. 

The Lady Toppers will be back in action on Friday afternoon at home against Austin Peay State University.

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