Baseball splits inaugural weekend

Baseball Head Coach, Matt Myers speaks about the upcoming season to reporters during the Baseball Media Day, Tuesday, Feb. 10, at Diddle Arena. The Toppers ranked 9th in the preseason Conference USA coaches poll, but Myers said he won’t let the low ranking phase him. Mike Clark/ HERALD

John Reecer

The Hilltopper baseball team fell to nationally ranked No. 20 Maryland last Friday 7-3, but bounced back on Saturday with a 9-4 victory over Coastal Carolina in the team’s first weekend of competition.

Due to inclement weather conditions, the Hilltoppers’ last game of the tournament, against Canisius College, was cancelled, bringing their record in the tournament and on the season to 1-1. 

In their first matchup against Maryland, WKU jumped to a fast start, holding a 3-1 lead over the Terrapins through the first three innings. 

Senior first baseman Ryan Church and fellow senior Phillip Diedrick got things going early for the Hilltoppers, as they hit back-to-back RBI singles in the first inning to make the score 2-0.

Church successfully added another RBI in the third inning, bringing in sophomore second baseman Leiff Clarkson on a sacrifice fly to right field. 

After the third inning, Maryland showed why they are nationally ranked, retiring 19 consecutive Hilltopper batters—11 from All-American pitcher Mike Shawaryn. 

During this drought, Maryland scored six unanswered runs, sparked by All-American Brandon Lowe’s two-run home run in the fourth inning. 

In his Hilltopper debut, junior pitcher John Harman gave up three runs in just under four innings, before being replaced by sophomore Ryan Thurston, after reaching his 80-pitch limit. Thurston gave up the two-run home run to Lowe.       

On Saturday, WKU played with a different level of energy. The Hilltopper offense exploded for nine runs and three different two-run home runs from Diedrick, junior third baseman Danny Hudzina and senior shortstop Cody Wofford, in route to the Hilltoppers’ five-run defeat of Coastal Carolina. 

“The way we responded from yesterday’s defeat was great,” Head Coach Matt Myers said, after the Coastal Carolina game. “We really put some good swings on some balls today.” 

Wofford and Hudzina both hit three RBI’s in the victory, while redshirt freshman outfielder Harrison Scanlon received the first three hits of his career, going 3-4 at the plate.  

Along with his three RBI’s, Hudzina’s two-run home run in the second inning was his first ever career hit at WKU.  

One of the most important moments in the game came when Diedrick hit his two-run home run in the fifth inning, pushing the Hilltopper lead to 6-3.  

“Phil’s home run was huge,” said Wofford. “It really got the team going and proved to be a big momentum shift in the game.” 

Junior pitcher Josh Bartley allowed just one earned run through five innings and 83 pitches. Sophomore closer Ben Morrison put the game away in the ninth inning by retiring the Coastal Carolina side. 

“Bartley was unbelievable today, and that’s what we needed,” said Myers. “Ben was really good in closing the game and giving us the first win of the season. If we play like we did tonight, as a team, we are going to tough to beat.” 

The Hilltoppers next game will be their home opener against Evansville at Nick Denes Field, on Friday at 3 p.m. CT.