Hilltopper baseball travels to Louisiana Tech for weekend series

Junior right handed pitcher Conner Boyd (43) looks to pitch during the Hilltoppers 3-1 loss against Charlotte on April 15 at Nick Denes Field.

Tyler Mansfield

After a 22-17 home-run derby style victory over Austin Peay on Tuesday, the WKU baseball team now hits the road for a three-game slate at Louisiana Tech, beginning Friday at 6 p.m.

WKU hit eight home runs in the victory on Tuesday, which the Hilltoppers will try to use as a springboard into the weekend series.

The Hilltoppers (13-29 overall, 4-14 C-USA), are currently on a four-game losing streak and sit in 12th place out of 12 teams in the C-USA standings. They are also ranked No. 257 out of 299 NCAA Division I teams, which ranks last among the league.

Louisiana Tech (27-14, 8-10) is tied with Marshall for fifth in the conference standings and welcomes WKU into Ruston, Louisiana following a 2-1 series win at home over Alabama-Birmingham. The Bulldogs dropped the series opener 14-9, but used its streaky offensive to close the slate for two-straight victories by final scores of 10-2 and 7-4, respectively.

La. Tech is led by junior catcher Brent Diaz, who leads the team with a batting average of .346. In 156 total at-bats so far this year, Diaz has recorded 54 hits, scored 34 runs and homered six times to go along with 35 RBI. The Miami native is also slugging .596.

On the opposite side of the ball for the Bulldogs, senior right-handed pitcher Nate Harris sports an ERA of 1.05 and is 5-0, powered by 66 strikeouts. Harris has allowed 40 hits and given up 10 runs in 60 innings thrown.

In WKU’s series loss to Rice, the Hilltoppers’ pitching struggled, resulting in the Owls tallying 36 hits and 31 runs in the three-contest span. The Hilltoppers threw 10 different pitchers throughout the course of the series, but the Owls’ powerful offense made limiting them a tough task for WKU.

Offensively, WKU continues to ride the successes of junior centerfielder Colie Currie, who is batting .309 while starting in all 41 games this season. Currie has recorded 47 hits and crossed the plate 28 times to go along with 20 RBI. The Jackson, Tennessee native has also hit three homeruns.

Defensively for the Hilltoppers, junior righty Paul Kirkpatrick has an ERA of 5.97 as he has allowed 74 hits and 45 runs in 60.1 total innings. Kirkpatrick has retired 28 batters and walked just 10.

Although it is not official yet, expect WKU’s usual series-opening starter in redshirt-junior left-handed pitcher Ryan Thurston (3-4, 6.05 ERA) to be on the bump Friday while Louisiana Tech starts senior RHP Casey Sutton (5-3, 6.62).

Saturday’s game will likely feature Kirkpatrick and the Bulldogs’ Harris while Sunday should present sophomore lefty Evan Acosta (1-5, 6.47) and Tech’s senior HP Cameron Linck (3-1, 3.45).

Following Friday’s opener, the two sides will face off at 2 p.m. Saturday and conclude the series Sunday at 1 p.m.

Reporter Tyler Mansfield can be reached at (270) 935-0007 and [email protected]com. Follow him on Twitter at @CallMeMansfield.