Hilltoppers win first C-USA series

McDonough, Georgia senior Cody Wofford hits the ball against Ohio State University, on Sunday, March 8 at Nick Denes Field. OSU won the game 10-1. Leanora Benkato/HERALD

John Reecer

After losing the first game of its inaugural Conference USA series, WKU’s baseball team came back and won the next two games at Nick Denes Field to capture the series. 

In the victories the Hilltoppers won 6-3 and 9-5, respectively. The series improved WKU’s record to 9-9 on the season and their conference record to 2-1. 

“Coming back after the first loss just shows our experience,” senior first baseman Ryan Church said. “Our offense really found its footing in the last two games and our pitching staff was great in those games as well.” 

The series began on a sour note for the Hilltoppers as Old Dominion defeated WKU 3-1 in the first game of a double header on Saturday. Starting pitcher Greg Tomchick of the Monarchs threw a perfect game until a home run by junior outfielder Anderson Miller broke it up in the seventh inning. 

Old Dominion shut down a normally strong WKU offense as Miller’s home run proved to be the Hilltoppers only hit in the game. WKU received a quality start from junior pitcher John Harman, who only gave up three runs on nine hits. Senior Brennan Pearson came out of the bullpen and threw three innings of scoreless relief for Harman. 

The second game of the double header on Saturday saw a completely different performance from the Hilltoppers. They cranked out 14 hits in the game and scored six runs, while junior starter Josh Bartley improved to 3-1 on the season after allowing three runs on only seven hits.  

 “I thought we were really noncompetitive in the first game and we came out flat, but we got a great start in game two and we responded well,” Head Coach Matt Myers said. “I’m very proud of how we responded, but it’s disappointing that we needed a game to respond to.” 

Miller played dominant at the plate in the double header, earning four hits in seven at bats, along with two home runs and two RBIs. 

“Miller is just a special talent and he is really fun to watch just like other guys in our lineup,” said Myers. “He is one of those guys that fans pay to watch.”

In the series-deciding game on Sunday, the Hilltoppers exploded for seven runs in the fifth inning and nine in the game as junior starter Austin King won his first game of the season after giving up only three runs on five hits in five innings. 

Church played a huge game at the plate, earning three hits and three RBIs in four at-bats. Redshirt senior catcher Ryan Messex added two RBIs, and Miller added two RBIs as well. Every player in the Hilltopper lineup either earned a hit or an RBI during the game. 

The bullpen played a solid rubber match for WKU as three pitchers combined to give up only two runs on four hits through four innings. 

“We played great today and we have shown great character in coming back after losing the first game like we did,” said Coach Myers. “We are really close to being a special team, but all that matters is what we did this week and that we won our first conference series at home.” 

 WKU will play next on Tuesday, March 17 at 6 p.m. in a midweek showdown against Lipscomb University at Nick Denes Fiel