Cats Still In the Bag

WKU junior pitcher Ryan Thurston (20) pitches during the game on Saturday. The WKU Hilltoppers baseball team takes on the University of Albany Danes at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky. Mar. 12, 2016. WKU beat UA, 12 – 2. Matt Lunsford/Herald

Sam Porter

The WKU baseball team traveled to Lexington on Tuesday for a match-up against in-state rival University of Kentucky. After beating the Wildcats 12-3 in 2015, the Hilltoppers once again got it done from the plate en route to a 14-6 victory.

Every starter for WKU got on base and all but one scored a run as the Hilltoppers scored the most runs against the Wildcats in school history. The victory gives the Hilltoppers their ninth win in the past eleven meetings against Kentucky and also makes the Hilltoppers 3-0 against Southeastern Conference opponents this season.

“That’s an outstanding team we just beat. Kentucky has a lot of thump in their lineup from top to bottom,” Head Coach John Pawlowski said after the game in a postgame radio interview. “I’m just really proud of the way our guys handled themselves and the way they went about their business. We really swung the bats extremely well and did some positive things offensively. Coach Rob (Reinstetle) did a great job with our hitters and getting them focused in on the game plan.”

After junior pitcher Cody Coll and Kentucky’s Zach Pop each pitched a scoreless first inning, the Hilltoppers began to succeed against Pop in the second inning.

With sophomore outfielder Kaleb Duckworth at third, graduate senior catcher Ty Downing legged out an infield single to bring home the Henderson County native for the game’s first score.

Shortly after, freshman infielder Steven DiPuglia scored, redshirt sophomore outfielder Harrison Scanlon to extend the lead to 2-0.

After sophomore infielder Steven Kraft’s and Thomas Peter both hit RBI’s to make the score 4-0, senior third baseman Danny Hudzina struck again from the plate.

The NCAA’s fifth ranked player in hits singled to centerfield to score Kraft and extend the lead to 5-0. The hit also extends Hudzina’s hitting streak to 21 games.

“We perform well under pressure,” Hudzina said about his team’s performance at the plate. “We’ve done a great job of extending innings. Whether its two strikes or two outs, we’re always in the game. We’ve been coached well in those tough situations.”

With the bases loaded, Pop walked Scanlon to bring home Peter for the inning’s final score. After the Wildcats scored one run to make the score 6-1, the Hilltoppers had another big inning in the fourth.

Scanlon hit a shot off the wall in center field to bring in Peter to extend the lead back to six. After Downing’s sacrifice fly scored Hudzina, redshirt junior outfielder Zach Janes roped an RBI single to push the lead to 9-1.

Once again, Pop walked the Hilltoppers with the bases loaded which scored Peter for the inning’s final run. Something wrong did happen for the Hilltoppers on the evening, though, as Peter went down with an injury at first base.

“We think it’s a hamstring, but we’re not sure,” Pawlowski said about Peter’s injury. “Peter is such a tremendous player. He’s a leader both on and off the field. We certainly hope for the best for him. He’s going to be fine, we just don’t know when. We have great doctors and trainers and they’re going to treat him and we’ll see how it plays out.”

Immediately after Peter’s injury, the Wildcats began to claw their way back into the game, scoring four unanswered runs to cut the lead to 10-5 as the two teams entered the top of the eighth inning.

However, the Hilltoppers answered with another big inning. Junior outfielder Chris Rogers, Peter’s replacement, hit an RBI double and scored a run to highlight a four-run inning that extended the lead to 14-5.

“We had a lot of guys step up today,” Pawlowski continued. “Chris Rogers stepped up in place of Thomas Peter. I think it brought our team down when Peter went down, but Rogers came up with a big RBI double that got us back on track.”

Redshirt junior pitcher Jackson Sowell finished off the Wildcats at the mound as the Hilltoppers came away victorious by a final score of 14-6. Sophomore pitcher Logan Weins got the win from the mound, improving him to 2-1 on the season.

The Hilltoppers improve to 11-5 on the season and travel to Norfolk, Va., this weekend to face conference foe Old Dominion (12-4). The Hilltoppers and Monarchs will play a three game series to open Conference USA play.