WKU offense goes cold in series loss to Southern Miss

Jeff Jones shaves WKU junior Devon Loomis’ head after WKUs loss Southern Miss on Saturday at Nick Denis Field. Jones along with his teammates shaved their heads in support of those battling cancer.

Jeremy Chisenhall

Due to some major offensive struggles, the WKU baseball team lost its weekend series with the top-25 ranked Southern Miss Golden Eagles, getting swept 3-0.

Over the course of the series, WKU had just 14 hits and two runs and left 22 runners on base.

“They’re a championship level ball team,” Head Coach John Pawlowski said of Southern Miss. “They can pitch it they can hit it, they can play defense, that’s a very good quality team. We certainly were not at that level, certainly [Sunday]. I thought Friday and Saturday we had some opportunities, but not many. They certainly deserved to win, that’s a very good ball club over there.”

Game one was a 6-1 loss for WKU, as the Hilltoppers couldn’t come through with guys on, leaving 10 runners on base. Both teams had nine hits, but moving runners over and in was a much different story for each side.

Southern Miss got out to a quick lead, scoring two runs in the first inning with a double from center fielder Matt Wallner. The Golden Eagles didn’t look back, as they scored the game’s next five runs after that, including a solo home run from Wallner in the eighth.

WKU wasn’t able to muster a fight until the ninth inning when Paul Murray scored a run on a ground-out by Nathan Methvin.

Southern Miss starting pitcher Kirk McCarty was dominant, going 8.0 innings and giving up no runs on six hits. He struck out 11 batters.

Ryan Thurston pitched well for WKU, but couldn’t get the win without run support. He went 7.0 innings, giving up four hits and three runs.

Game two was much of the same story, as WKU fell 5-0 in a game where they just couldn’t drive in runs.

The Hilltoppers left eight runners on base, including once leaving the bases loaded. They went 0-6 with runners in scoring position.

The scoring didn’t start for USM until the fourth inning when LeeMarcus Boyd singled to right field to score Cole Donaldson. They scored again in the seventh when Taylor Braley hit a two-run home run, and then capped off their lead with a two-run eighth.

USM’s Hayden Roberts only went 5.1 innings as the starter but shut WKU down. He gave up just four hits and didn’t allow a run. WKU’s Paul Kirkpatrick had a decent outing, giving up 10 hits and three runs in 6.1 innings, but again the Hilltoppers couldn’t provide run support.

Game three was an offensive onslaught for Southern Miss, and an exercise in futility for WKU. The Golden Eagles hit five home runs and scored 13 in a 13-1 blowout.

The USM home run derby started early, as both Storme Cooper and Daniel Keating homered in the second inning. Keating’s was a three-run bomb to give the Golden Eagles a 4-0 lead.

Keating homered again in the fourth, and that was followed up by a home run from Bryant Bowen in the fifth and a bomb by Matt Wallner in the sixth.

Fittingly, WKU’s only run of game three came on a Thomas Peter home run, his sixth of the season. That was also their only hit.

USM’s J.C. Keys shut WKU down, pitching a complete game, and giving up just one hit, which was Peter’s home run.

After the sweep, Pawlowski was sure to find positives, even though there weren’t many.

“One positive is I thought we pitched very well,” Pawlowski said. “Ryan Thurston pitched very well Friday night, I thought Paul Kirkpatrick pitched very well [Saturday]. I think those guys need to continue to solidify their spots in the rotation. I thought in spots we played good defense, but when you lose three games in a weekend, a lot of negatives overshadow the positives so we’re going to keep drawing out those positives, learn from out negatives and move forward.”

WKU will hold their next game at Nick Denes Field on Tuesday against the Murray State Racers at 5 p.m.

Reporter Jeremy Chisenhall can be reached at 859-760-0198 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @JSChisenhall.