Hilltoppers fall on the road to No. 2 Louisville

Infielder Thomas Peter (7) bats during the Hilltoppers’ 4-3 loss against UK on Tuesday, Mar. 21 at the Bowling Green Hot Rods stadium. 

Tyler Mansfield

The WKU baseball team recorded six hits and scored a run on the evening, but that wouldn’t be enough for them to upset the second-ranked team in the country, Louisville, on Tuesday at Jim Patterson Stadium.

The Hilltoppers (9-17 overall, 3-3 Conference USA) had a hit in five out of the nine innings, but the Cardinals (22-2, 8-1 ACC) had a hit in each of their batting frames to finish with 17 and beat WKU, 11-1, to stay perfect (17-0) at home.

WKU junior outfielder Steven Kraft went 2 for 3 on the day while junior outfielder Kaleb Duckworth, junior first baseman Nathan Methvin, senior outfielder Paul Murray and junior outfielder Colie Currie each tallied a hit.

Louisville’s junior first baseman Brendan McKay went 3 for 4 to go along with an RBI and a double while reaching home twice.

On the mound for the Toppers, freshman righty Jeff Ciocco relieved left handed redshirt freshman starter Caleb Bruner (0-1) and tallied six strikeouts while giving up eight hits and four runs in 3.2 innings thrown. The Cardinals’ senior right hander Shane Hummel (2-0) gave up four hits and had a strikeout in 3.1 innings.

With UL’s victory, it took a 65-64 lead in the all-time series against WKU, which dates back to 1924. The Hilltoppers have now dropped three-straight contests to the Cardinals, as they fell 17-0 in Bowling Green and 14-2 in Louisville last season.

Louisville jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two complete innings. In the opening frame, junior catcher Colby Fitch doubled to right center before junior shortstop Devin Hairston’s RBI single to the same area gave the Cardinals their first run. Fitch’s RBI groundout and Hairston’s RBI single plated two in the second.

WKU’s first – and only threat – came in the top of the third inning. Currie tripled down the right field line to begin the frame while freshman left fielder Kevin Lambert grounded out to second to score Currie and earn an RBI. The run helped cut Louisville’s advantage to 3-1, but that was as close as the Toppers would get.

The Cardinals earned another multi-run inning in the fifth, powered by a trio of hits. McKay singled to left center to begin the bottom half of the inning and senior outfielder Colin Lyman singled to third base to load the bases. Sophomore infielder Devin Mann’s RBI flyout and freshman infielder Tyler Fitzgerald’s RBI triple put UL up 5-1.

In the seventh, Methvin singled for WKU, but Louisville picked up three more runs to close the inning with a 9-1 lead. The scoring was courtesy of two Topper errors and a double from McKay.

The Hilltoppers went 1-2-3 in their final two times at bat while the Cardinals added two more final runs to their side of the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth inning to secure the double-digit victory.

WKU returns to action this weekend, as it takes on No. 25 Southern Mississippi in a C-USA series at Nick Denes Field. The three-game slate begins on Friday, with first pitch slated to come at 5 p.m.

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