Pratt: Toppers hope for different outcome in familiar situation

WKU junior Cody Wofford tags South Alabama’s Adam Ballew in a rundown during their game at Nick Denes field on Friday, April 18, 2014. Despite a strong offense, the Hilltoppers fell to USA 13-10. (Brian Powers/HERALD)

Elliott Pratt

A year ago today, I woke up to work a graveyard shift at UPS around 1:00 AM. I went to sleep a few hours beforehand knowing I would wake up and see the final score of the WKU-Kentucky baseball game from Bowling Green Ballpark.

What I didn’t expect was waking up to my twitter feed still buzzing about what was the longest in Division-I that year in a 3-2 WKU win in 18 innings.

I reminisce this to bring back a memory of how a team’s play went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in a season. While April 24, 2012 was a game Topper fans will always remember, the following games were ones they would like to forget.

It was at this point in the season last year – with 14 to 16 games remaining – that the Toppers’ season fell apart.

Last season after that 18 inning duel the Toppers lost eight of their next ten before ending the season on a four game win streak. Before those losses they were projected by some as an at-large bid to the NCAA regionals.

I bring it up because coach Matt Myers thinks about it too. He realizes this weekend represents a time the Toppers want to avoid heading into what he believes is an opportune time in the year.

“This weekend last year turned our season,” Myers said. “This schedule has prepared us for this, to make this run. I believe we’re the best team on the remaining part of this schedule. We’re at home and we need to take care of business.”

As long as the Toppers handle their business, the rest of the Sun Belt could possibly play itself out into a pretty picture in their favor.

Texas State, who sits two games ahead in third place in the standings ahead of WKU, has the chore of playing Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin’ Cajuns have only lost twice this year in the Sun Belt – once to WKU and to UT-Arlington.

With the potential of the Bobcats running into what Myers called a “buzz saw” of a team like ULL, the opportunity to capitalize in the league with this much on the line is too good to not show up and play well.

“The worst feeling is leaving a game on a Sunday losing two out of three and knowing you probably should have swept them,” junior first baseman Ryan Church said. “I think we’re a good enough team to sweep anybody in our conference with the exception of (Louisiana-Lafayette). We just have to start taking care of business when business needs to be taken care of. I think the troops are ready to go and that’s all it takes.”

WKU’s remaining conference schedule pits them against the cellar-dwellers like Arkansas-Little Rock this weekend and home games against Georgia State and road trips to UT-Arlington and Louisiana-Monroe.

“I really feel like we can get on a roll,” Myers said. “If we’re as good as I think we can be, you can see this team really take off and take advantage of playing – we weathered the storm against two teams in this league and had two of them on the rail at Lafayette and Texas State and, realistically, should have won – so we’ve handled it really well in the conference. Now it’s time to take care of the bottom of the conference. Every team you beat now that you play, you put them out of the tournament.

“My goal is that if we can’t catch Lafayette, we can catch Arkansas State.”

It’s a realistic goal Myers has set. The Red Wolves, like WKU, are handling a team this weekend at the bottom of the conference with Georgia State before having to deal with ULL next weekend.

That’s a “buzz saw” the Tops are glad they weathered. The goal is right in front of them once again like last season at this time. Except this season, the Toppers hope that history doesn’t repeat itself.