Murray hits Toppers past Lipscomb

Junior outfielder Paul Murray swings at a pitch during WKU’s game against Evansville on Tuesday, April 5 at Nick Denes Field. The Hilltoppers defeated the Purple Aces 6-5. Ebony Cox/HERALD

Sam Porter

The WKU baseball team traveled to Nashville Tuesday night to take on Lipscomb University in a nonconference showdown.

Earlier this year, the Hilltoppers defeated the Bisons 6-0 at Nick Denes Field. Thanks to a three-RBI performance by junior outfielder Paul Murray, the Toppers defeated the Bisons once again by a score of 4-3. The win marks the first win at Lipscomb since 2012 and the first sweep of the Bisons since 2009.

“I’m proud of the way our guys responded today,” Head Coach John Pawlowski said in a radio interview after the game. “They did a really good job. Even when we got behind, we kept plugging, and it paid off.”

After junior pitcher Cody Coll and Lipscomb’s Adam Stewart pitched a scoreless first inning, Murray put the Toppers on the board in the second.

The San Bruno, California, native ripped an RBI single to bring home sophomore infielder Steven Kraft for the game’s opening run.

Soon after, freshman shortstop Steven DiPuglia’s RBI groundout brought home redshirt sophomore first baseman Harrison Scanlon to give the Hilltoppers a 2-0 lead after two innings.

However, the Bisons responded in the bottom of the third inning. On Coll’s first pitch of the inning, Lipscomb’s Lee Solomon hit one out of the park in centerfield to put the Bisons on the board.

Tevin Symonette followed with an RBI single through the left side of the field to tie the game. Finally, Allan Hooker’s RBI groundout gave the Bisons a 3-2 lead after three innings.

Needing a spark, Murray delivered again in the top of the sixth. With two outs and a 0-2 count, Murray ripped a two-run RBI single to score Kraft and Scanlon and give the Toppers a 4-3 lead.

“Paul Murray was huge for us tonight,” Pawlowski continued. “With two outs and 0-2 count, you couldn’t ask for anything more in that situation.”

Lipscomb threatened in the bottom of the seventh. With two men on base and two outs, Pawlowski called senior pitcher John Harman to get the Toppers out of the jam.

The Carrollton, Georgia, native got the groundout to send the game to the eighth inning with the Toppers clinging to a one-run lead.

After the Toppers couldn’t deliver from the plate, Harman struck out three straight Bisons to send the game to the final inning.

“I was really working on my breaking ball and fastball combo,” Harman said after the game in a postgame radio interview. “I felt very comfortable with my changeup as well. I felt good in the bullpen and was able to throw strikes. Coach Pawlowski has helped me develop more confidence on all my pitches. He’s really helped me figure out my mechanics.”

After the Toppers couldn’t deliver from the plate, redshirt junior Jackson Sowell came on looking to add to his many saves this season. The Bowling Green native retired three of the final four Bisons to clinch the 4-3 victory.

“I thought Cody Coll, John Harman and Jackson Sowell all did a great job today,” Pawlowski continued. “Other than that one inning, Cody was great, and John and Jackson did exactly what we needed to keep [Lipscomb] out of the game and get us this win.”

Coll pitched 5.0 innings and got the win to improve to 3-2 on the year while Sowell got his eighth save of the year.

The win improves the Hilltoppers to 23-18 (9-9 C-USA) and drops the Bisons to 20-21(4-5 Atlantic Sun). WKU welcomes Florida International University, currently 20-22 (7-11 C-USA), for a three-game Conference USA series this weekend at Nick Denes Field.

“This win gives us a lot of confidence,” Harman said. “We have a big weekend ahead. I hope we can use this confidence to our advantage this weekend.”