Toppers look towards pivotal weekend in Texas

Shortstop Cody Wofford drives in a run during the team’s 5-3 victory over Illinois in the second game Saturday. The Hilltoppers won both games of the double header. (Austin Anthony/HERALD)

Billy Rutledge

With only two weekend series left before the Sun Belt Conference tournament, the WKU baseball team will travel on its final road series in the conference this weekend against UT Arlington. The Toppers (27-22, 13-11 Sun Belt) come into the series having won five of its last six games and sitting at fourth in the league.

“Our guys are having fun right now, they know they are really good,” coach Matt Myers said. “Our number one goal is to get as high as we can in our league, but also we want to get over 30 wins and we are three wins away from that so we want to keep getting close.”

The Toppers’ offense has been the main contributing factor for their success with national ranking numbers. WKU is ranked 10th in the nation in doubles (101), 16th in hits (500), 30th in slugging percentage (.413) and 32nd in batting average (.294).

“We treat every game similar,” senior outfielder David Simmons said. “We try to play with a win-or-go-home attitude in every game. We are just bearing down as it’s coming down to the end of the season. We are trying to eliminate some of the smaller mistakes while working on the little things so we can stay more consistent.”

Simmons has been a huge reason why WKU has found success recently. The Indianapolis native leads the team in batting average, posting a .378 average with the next closest being freshman Leiff Clarkson at .336. Simmons also leads the team in slugging percentage (.622) and has been a huge attribute in centerfield. Sunday, Simmons made a diving catch to save a hit and keep the game tied.

“He’s been unbelievable,” Myers said. “Trevor Lowe won the starting job right away, so David was sitting there coming off the bench, but every time we would put him in the game, I told him every time you go into games, we’re winning. Trevor rolled his ankle and we put David in at Troy and he took off. He’s playing with a lot of confidence, and the catch he made Sunday was one of the best catches I’ve ever seen.

“He’s another guy that gives us speed, power, he’s hitting the ball, A-plus defender and he’s hitting at seven or eight which is really making the bottom part of our lineup really tough,” he added.

Over the past five weekend series, WKU is 4-1 with all of them coming against teams lower than WKU in the Sun Belt. When asked about the record, Myers was pleased with the results.

“I think our league is a lot tougher than people think,” Myers said. “I’m happy with winning series, that’s very difficult to do. In the three series we have lost this year, we have won Friday night so we could have potentially won every series this year. I’ll take that any day of the week.”

UT Arlington is tied for fourth with WKU in the Sun Belt standings. The Mavericks are coming off two consecutive winning weekend series at Arkansas State and Troy.

The Mavericks will bring in six players who are batting over .300, the best being senior outfielder Matt Shortall. Shortall leads the team in almost every offensive category, which includes 80 hits, nine home runs, 49 RBIs, 135 total bases and a .616 slugging percentage.

“UT Arlington is very good on the road and are playing extremely good right now,” Myers said. “They can really hit one of the top offensive teams in our league. It’s going to be a big challenge for us but going on the road and winning, we went to (Louisiana) Lafayette when no one thought we had a chance and we went in there and roughed them up pretty good.”

The first game between WKU and UT Arlington will be Friday at 6 p.m. in Arlington, Texas.