Dominant pitching leads UAB in Hilltopper sweep

Pitcher Kevin Elder, left, and pitcher Tate Glasscock, right, celebrate a 12-3 win against University of Kentucky at the Hot Rods Stadium in Bowling Green on March 24, 2015. Emily Kask/HERALD

John Reecer

The Hilltoppers lost three-straight games at Nick Denes Field this past weekend to UAB, suffering its first series sweep in Conference USA play.   

Coming off a 12-run game against the University of Kentucky, the Hilltoppers (13-13) never got the ball rolling. The offense scored just one run a piece during the Friday and Sunday games. 

“It’s really tough to swallow because we played really, really bad baseball,” Head Coach Matt Myers said. “In situations like this weekend, mentally, guys rise to those occasions, and we just didn’t do that this weekend for whatever reason.”

The first game of the series featured an elite pitcher’s duel with WKU sophomore Ryan Thurston and UAB (17-9) redshirt junior James Naile giving up 10 hits and only two runs in their combined 13.1 innings pitched. 

The Blazers, however, defeated the Hilltoppers as UAB scored a decisive ninth-inning run on a bases-loaded walk from junior John Harman to bring the Hilltoppers down 2-1.

“Coming into this game we knew that UAB had a really good pitching staff and Naile did a great job with our hitters,” Myers said. “However, I thought that Ryan Thurston matched him through the game but we squandered a couple of opportunities and you can’t do that on Friday nights in this league.”

Those missed opportunities include, but are not limited to, five WKU players left in scoring positions and two runners thrown out at home plate. 

The Hilltoppers also blew an opportunity to take the lead back in the seventh inning. They hit into a double play with two runners on base to end the B3ning. 

Game two featured a valiant comeback attempt from the Hilltoppers in the ninth inning, scoring three runs to nearly erase a 6-2 deficit. However, UAB struck out sophomore Hunter Wood with the bases loaded to clinch the series.  

Freshman outfielder Kaleb Duckworth started the Hilltoppers’ ninth-inning rally by smashing a home run over the left field fence for his fifth of the year.

“One of the things that our team does well is that we can come back in games and we never give up because we always think we have a chance,” said senior catcher Ryan Messex. “We just have to do a better job at being consistent throughout the game.” 

In the final game of the series, UAB played an all-around game with ten hits led to seven runs. The Blazers’ pitching staff held the Hilltoppers to just one run despite giving up nine hits.

In the series, WKU went 2-for-25 (.080) with runners in scoring position, resulting in just seven runs on 26 hits on one of Conference USA’s top pitching staffs.  

“It’s unacceptable for this to happen at home especially after how we played Tuesday against Kentucky,” said senior designated hitter Phillip Diedrick. “We are going to correct a lot of things through practice this week, and we will bounce back because we believe we are a good baseball team.”