WKU’s offense clicks in 10-9 win over Murray State

Lipscomb pitcher Dayton Tripp (4) pitches to junior WKU outfielder Colie Currie (3) during the Hilltoppers’ 10-4 loss to LU on Tuesday Feb. 28, 2017 at Nick Denes Field. Brendan O’Hern/HERALD

Tyler Mansfield

A powerful offensive second inning propelled the WKU baseball team to a hard fought 10-9 victory over Murray State on Tuesday evening at Nick Denes Field. 

The Hilltoppers (10-20 overall), who snapped a four-game losing streak, recorded six runs on six hits in the frame and showed plenty of momentum early. In the inning, WKU tallied three singles, a double, a triple and a homerun to take the early 6-0 advantage. 

“It’s been frustrating – we’ve had our moments, we just haven’t played consistent, championship baseball – and that’s where we’re at,” WKU head coach John Pawlowski said. “Hopefully they can continue to gain some confidence.” 

The Racers (15-13) responded with a five-run inning of their own in top of the third to bring themselves right back into the mix. 

Starting redshirt freshman right handed pitcher Caleb Bruner suffered an arm injury after throwing just 10 pitches and was replaced by junior righty Devon Loomis, who tossed just 20. Junior right hander Conner Boyd entered and did most of the work on the mound, giving up five hits and two runs while striking out two batters in 3.1 innings. 

“That one was for Caleb Bruner,” senior outfielder Chris Rogers said. “He’s been working his butt off all year and to come back and that happen to it, that sucks. That was for Caleb.” 

On the opposite side of the ball, junior centerfielder Colie Currie went 3-for-4 while freshman left fielder Wyatt Featherston went 2-for-3 to go along with an RBI. In its loss, Murray State was led by senior catcher Tyler Lawrence. 

Western outhit the Racers, 14-11, on the day and had an overall hitting percentage of .389 (14-of-36) while MSU had a mark of .314 (11-of-35). 

“I’m excited about what we did offensively,” Pawlowski stated. “14 hits, 10 runs. I know offensively these guys have worked so hard and it’s great to see them have some success. Hopefully this will give them some confidence.” 

The Toppers began the offensive contest with a dominant second inning. 

Currie recorded the game’s first hit with a triple into centerfield – his first of the season. Following Currie’s at-bat, junior first baseman Grayson Ivey singled to Murray State sophomore shortstop Jaron Robinson to score Currie and record an RBI in the process. 

Shortly after the Toppers’ first run, Featherston hit a single and freshman shortstop Kevin Lambert drilled a two-run RBI double to the centerfield wall to increase WKU’s advantage to 3-0 and it soon doubled. 

Junior designated hitter Kaleb Duckworth reeled in an RBI single just before senior right fielder Thomas Peter belted his seventh homerun of the season over the left field 

wall to plate both him and Duckworth. WKU was up 6-0 over the Racers behind its strongest offensive inning of the year. 

“It was really big, Currie said of the win. “We got off to a good start.” 

The Racers fired right back. 

Murray State got its first hit on senior first baseman Jack Hranec’s single that leadoff the third. After a fielder’s choice and a pair of walks by Loomis, the Racers scored their first run after Hranec crossed the plate on a walk. Boyd replaced Loomis on the bump after the run. 

Lawrence’s grand slam with two outs in the inning brought MSU to within a single run at 6-5. He took a swing at a fastball and placed it perfectly down the third base line to put the Racers right back in it. 

Following the five-run frame by Murray State, WKU’s offensive continued to be effective. Currie leadoff the bottom half of the third with a single and a double from Featherston plated Currie, giving the Tops a 7-5 lead entering the fourth. 

WKU added a run on Ivey’s RBI single in the bottom of the fifth, which scored senior catcher Hunter Wood and the Toppers led by three after five complete innings. 

Trailing 8-5, MSU added three runs to its side of the scoreboard in the sixth to even the affair at 8-8. Hrancec tripled for an RBI while Robinson hit an RBI single and junior second baseman Kipp Moore got an RBI double. 

Moore’s sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the seventh gave Murray State its first lead of the night at 9-8, but the pinch hitter Rogers blasted a solo homer over the bullpen in left to tie things yet again. 

“It was a big hit,” Rogers noted. “Our offense played great today. We really needed this win – and we’re happy we got it.” 

With Currie on third and junior second baseman Tyler Robertson up to bat, Robertson connected on a pitch for an RBI sacrifice fly that plated Currie and gave the Hilltoppers the walk-off victory. 

WKU now travels to San Antonio, Texas for a three-game Conference USA series at UTSA, beginning Friday night at 6 p.m. CT. 

“It’s really big, especially going into conference play this weekend,” Currie added in regards to the win. “At long as we can keep this up, we’re right there.”