Shaky hitting does WKU in against JSU

Senior pitcher Kevin Elder took the mount last for the Hilltoppers in a 3-2 loss against Jacksonville State University on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. In his two relief appearances, totaling 6.1 innings, Elder has only allowed three hits.

Jeremy Chisenhall

Although it got red-hot at times, the WKU baseball team couldn’t consistently produce in its latest three-game series against Jacksonville State over the weekend. 

The Hilltoppers scored 21 runs in the series, but 14 of those came in one game. They left a total of 20 runners on base.

“The thing is, you’re not always going to score a lot of runs,” Head Coach John Pawlowski said. “The key is to be able to have quality at-bats. If we can piece together quality at-bats, the pendulum doesn’t swing quite as big as it’s swinging right now.”

The series started off with a WKU loss on Friday, as JSU defeated them 3-2. In that game, redshirt junior pitcher Ryan Thurston struck out eight batters and senior catcher Hunter Wood stretched his hit streak to six games.

WKU never led in the game. JSU broke a tie in the sixth inning when senior center fielder Peyton Williams grounded out to second base and scored Payton Young on a fielder’s choice. They kept that score the rest of the game. WKU threatened in the ninth when they put runners on first and third, but it failed to convert the opportunity.

WKU left a total of seven runners on base in game one, and had just one extra-base hit, a double from Wood.

“We came up with guys up on base, and especially there late we threatened, and it’s just good to see our resilience,” Thurston said. “We had a chance, I liked the way we fought with two outs in the ninth.”

Game two saw WKU’s offense hit a hot streak, as they scored a season-high 14 runs en route to a 14-4 victory.

After JSU took an early lead in the second inning, WKU answered with six unanswered runs followed by eight runs in two innings.

Wood hit two home runs, one in the third and one in the seventh, to stretch his hit streak to seven games. Junior outfielder Colie Currie homered as well, and the two accounted for eight of the Hilltoppers’ 14 runs.

Junior outfielder Kaleb Duckworth, junior outfielder Steven Kraft, junior first baseman Nathan Methvin, freshman infielder Kevin Lambert and freshman infielder Bryson Smith all contributed with an RBI apiece as well.

WKU got solid pitching for the second straight game, as junior pitcher Paul Kirkpatrick went six innings and only gave up three earned runs on nine hits. His performance earned him his first win of the season. Sophomore pitcher Evan Acosta came in after him to shut the door, going three innings and giving up no runs on two hits for his first save of the season.

JSU jumped all over WKU in game three, and it took WKU too long to respond in a 9-5 loss.

The Toppers scored a run in the second to level the game at 1-1, but JSU answered with a seven-run third inning. Despite a four-run seventh, which featured a two-run home run from freshman outfielder Wyatt Featherston, WKU never fully recovered.

The Toppers’ offense was pretty much stagnant up until that seventh inning, as they scored just one run on two hits, left two runners on base and struck out 10 times in the first six innings. In the end, the Toppers had eight hits and 15 strikeouts.

“Our guys came out today with the right mindset and mentality to try to win this series after a great win for us yesterday, and we weren’t able to do that,” Pawlowski said on Sunday. “You take away that third inning and it’s a different game, but we weren’t able to overcome that.

“There’s a big drop off today from yesterday, but then we had a couple good at-bats in there.”

WKU will face off against Lipscomb at Nick Denes Field on Tuesday, followed by a game against the Kentucky in Lexington on Wednesday.

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