WKU baseball wins weekend series at MTSU

Junior first baseman Nathan Methuen (18) catches the ball as UK’s infielder Zeke Lewis (4) slides into base during the Hilltoppers’ 4-3 loss against UK on Tuesday Mar. 21, 2017 at the Bowling Green Hot Rods stadium.

Tyler Mansfield

The WKU baseball team claimed its first Conference USA series victory of the season after winning two out of the three games at Middle Tennessee this past weekend.

Entering the weekend with a three-game losing streak – most recently a tough 4-3 setback to No. 19 Kentucky at Bowling Green Ballpark last Tuesday — the Hilltoppers (9-16 overall, 3-3 C-USA) wanted to keep their same mentality and take it one game at a time.

Behind stellar offensive performances and solid pitching throughout the series, WKU continued to play its style of baseball and recorded a momentum-boosting series win.

The Toppers opened the slate with a 10-3 win on Friday before just dropping the second matchup, 10-9, in 11 innings. WKU regrouped and posted a 4-2 victory to close things on Sunday.

Saturday’s game was postponed while tied 9-9 in the 10th inning due to lighting in the area. It resumed and was completed prior to the finale – one in which WKU head coach John Pawlowski was very proud of his team for.

“After the first one today, I told our team we need to flush this and move ahead,” Pawlowski said. “In the final game they were up 2-1 for a large part of it but we caught a couple breaks and we were able to come through with three runs in an inning.

“And that ended up being enough to win a very, very hard-fought three-game set.”

WKU’s series-opening win on Friday marked its first road victory of the season. The Toppers and MTSU (9-13, 1-5 C-USA) couldn’t get the bats going in the first inning, but a three-run homerun to left field by Thomas Peter in the second put Western up 6-0 and it never looked back.

The Tops had four multi-hit and three multi-RBI outings from six different players throughout the lineup. Left handed pitcher Ryan Thurston, who has emerged as the Friday starter, allowed three runs on eight hits while striking out six batters in 6.1 innings. Kevin Elder closed for WKU, recording the final eight outs.

In Saturday’s Game 2 that was completed on Sunday, the two sides went back and forth. After the 10 innings on Saturday, there had been five lead changes and six tied scores, as WKU and the Blue Raiders had combined for 18 runs on 22 hits.

Down 4-3 to begin the sixth, Cole Currie homered to tie things before back-to-back RBI from Leiff Clarkson and Kaleb Duckworth gave the Toppers a 5-4 lead. MTSU went on to outscore WKU 6-4 throughout the remainder of the affair to claim the second contest.

Behind a career-best pitching performance by Evan Acosta and hot hitting from Thomas Peter, WKU claimed the series victory on Sunday. Trailing 2-1 after six innings, three Hilltoppers loaded the bases and Peter hit a two-out, two-run RBI single before a bad throw by MTSU’s catcher scored another Topper and put WKU up for the remainder of the affair.

On the mound for WKU, Acosta finished with three strikeouts and no walks while giving up eight hits in 7.2 innings thrown. Of his 87 total pitches, 65 were strikes.

WKU will travel to Louisville next for a midweek matchup with the No. 2 ranked Cardinals on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.

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