Peter, Sowell ‘excited’ for final seasons as Hilltoppers

Tyler Mansfield

WKU baseball’s Thomas Peter and Jackson Sowell have been Hilltoppers for quite a while.

The two redshirt seniors both joined the WKU program back in 2013 and have been key contributors in WKU’s success throughout the last four seasons.

On Tuesday, the veteran athletes met with the media to preview their final runs as Hilltoppers – and it’s safe to say that they are ready for one last ride.

“We’re excited,” Sowell said. “It’s always a good time to get close and get the edge to get out there. We’re fired up. We’ve been getting after it in the weight room and on the field so we’re ready.”

Peter echoed the sentiments of his longtime teammate.

“It’s the best time of year,” he said. “I mean, the fall is a grind each and every day in the weight room and on the field, and we play for this moment. So, we’ve got 10 more days [until opening day] and we’re just excited to get out there.”

Sowell, a Bowling Green native, has been one of WKU’s go-to pitchers during his time on the Hill. The right-handed thrower thrived as the team’s primary closer in 2016, posting a team-best 2.36 earned-run average and eight saves. His eight saves were the fifth-most in a single season by a Hilltopper as he worked 26.2 innings in 21 total appearances out of the bullpen.

Sowell also recorded 35 strikeouts in 2016, which came out to an 11.81 strikeouts per nine innings average. Despite a rough four-game stretch that caused Sowell’s earned-run average to balloon to seven for the 2016 season, he recorded 17 appearances in which he didn’t allow a single earned run.

“Coming back and talking to all the older guys, we haven’t finished the way we wanted in the past,” Sowell said. “But I’m just looking forward to enjoying each and every day. It’s one day at a time, one game at a time and we’re looking forward to it. We have a good group of seniors and it’s all about molding the program going forward.”

Peter has been one of WKU’s best hitters throughout his time with the program, but has had no luck when it comes to injuries. In his four seasons as a Hilltopper, Peter has suffered three key setbacks, including a wrist injury, hand injury and torn hamstring. Each time, he’s battled back.

In his redshirt junior year last season, Peter was one of the Toppers’ best swingers through the first month of the campaign’s slate before his torn hamstring occurred. In the opening 16 games, Peter, playing first base for the first time, boasted a .310 batting average, .354 on-base percentage and a .493 slugging percentage on 22 hits, 15 runs, five doubles, two homeruns and a team-high 21 RBI at the time.

For his production throughout that time, Peter was named the Conference USA Hitter of the Week on February 29. Peter said he would like to get off to the same start in 2017, minus an injury.

“It’s a big season for me,” Peter said. “I’ve had a lot of bad luck in the past, but at the end of last year I had talks with Jackson [Sowell] and the other older guys. We knew we were going to come back for one more year and give this thing a shot. So wherever coach [John Pawlowski] needs me, I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team win.”

WKU begins its season Friday, February 17 at 3 P.M. against Valparaiso at home. The Hilltoppers will host 18 of their first 22 games on the new AstroTurf playing field at Nick Denes Field.

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