Pitching dominates as WKU loses series to Ohio

Graduate student pitcher Jackson Sowell (19) pitches the ball during the 5-4 win against Ohio University on Friday, Mar. 3, 2017 at Nick Denes Field.

Jeremy Chisenhall

WKU baseball lost its three-game series against Ohio over the weekend, two games to one, in what ended up being a dominant pitching display for both teams. 

Ryan Thurston struck out 11 batters in his start, and Ohio’s Butch Baird and Michael Klein both shut WKU out in their starts. Ohio’s Jake Roehn also recorded back-to-back saves on Saturday and Sunday.

“This weekend I thought we threw the ball well, the guys made pitches when they needed to,” Head Coach John Pawlowski said. “Unfortunately, we just weren’t able to get anything going. Give them credit, they pitched extremely well also and found a way to win the series.”

The series started off with a close 5-4 win for WKU on Friday. Thurston had a commanding performance, going 7.1 innings, giving up three runs on four hits and striking out 11 batters.

The Hilltoppers grabbed a lead in the first inning when senior Thomas Peter grounded out and scored junior Steven Kraft. Senior Paul Murray added on later in the inning, doubling to right-center field to score junior Grayson Ivey and give WKU a 2-0 lead.

After later getting out to a 5-1 lead, Ohio put up three runs in the eighth, but Jackson Sowell came in to shut the door for his second save of the year.

“We get up 5-1 and we have an opportunity, and we just really couldn’t put them away,” Pawlowski said of the game staying close. “Ryan Thurston was outstanding, I mean what a stellar performance from him.”

WKU’s offense didn’t have the same success in game two, despite the fact that the pitching was just as good in a 3-0 loss.

Junior Paul Kirkpatrick started the game for the Toppers, going 8.1 innings and giving up just three runs on eight hits. Unfortunately for Kirkpatrick, Ohio’s Baird was even more dominant, shutting WKU out through 6.2 innings.

Ohio started off the scoring in the third inning with a solo home run from Tyler Finkler. Ty Black added another run with a single to center field that scored Evan Bourn and they added the last run in the seventh when Spencer Ibarra singled and scored Conner Callery.

Roehn came in after Baird and shut the door on WKU to record his first save of the season.

Game three was nearly identical to game two, as WKU pitched well but still lost 3-0.

Freshman Michael Hicks got his first career start for WKU on Sunday, and went 3.1 innings, giving up just one run on five hits and four walks.

“Michael’s done a good job, he deserves an opportunity, and it was just the right time, right situation,” Pawlowski said of starting Hicks. “He pitched well, he just got himself in trouble. He walked a couple guys but other than that he’s going to be a good one for us.”

Ohio scored two runs in the fifth on senior reliever Kevin Elder to give the Bobcats a 3-0 lead, and the Toppers never answered. That score held through the remainder of the game.

The Toppers will play Belmont at home on Tuesday and Eastern Kentucky University on the road on Wednesday before coming back to Nick Denes Field for a three-game series against Illinois State over the weekend.

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