Upset Minded: Toppers defeat No. 1 ULL, but lose series

WKU sophomore infielder Thomas Peter launches the ball to first base to out a University of Louisville runner during the teams’ matchup on Wednesday. The Toppers lost to the Cardinals 5-3 at the Bowling Green Ballpark. (Jeff Brown/HERALD)

Billy Rutledge

The WKU baseball team can find light out of losing a conference weekend series.

The Toppers dropped the final two of a three game series at Louisiana-Lafayette, but not before making history in a 14-3 win to open the weekend.  The win marked the first time WKU has ever beaten the nation’s top-ranked team and added to the season’s list of ranked wins.

The victory Friday marked WKU’s ninth win over a top 25 opponent since 2008 and the sixth time WKU has knocked off a top 10 opponent with coach Matt Myers at the helm for six of those ranked victories.

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The Toppers (14-14) achieved the feat in a unlikely manner. ULL came into the weekend series ranked 11th in hits allowed with just over six hits per game and 73 total runs in 26 games. The Toppers had 39 hits and 27 runs this weekend and handed the Cajuns their third loss of the season.

“We competed great, we were the more offensive team this weekend,” Myers said. “Until the last out was made, there was no doubt in our minds we could score when we needed to.”

Three Toppers stood out above the rest Saturday: senior outfielder Regan Flaherty, sophomore outfielder Anderson Miller and senior pitcher Justin Hageman. The Cajuns tallied 10 hits on the defending Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Week, but Hageman managed to leave 10 runners on base.

Flaherty and Miller combined for 11 hits and 11 RBIs to spark WKU’s best offensive production of 2014. Flaherty had a two-run home run in the second inning while Miller had five hits for five RBIs in the victory.

The team scored six runs in the sixth inning and 14 runs in the game, both season-highs. The victory snapped the nation’s longest winning streak of 14.

Despite the victory, the Toppers dropped the other two games of the weekend series 10-9 and 7-4. The second game of the Saturday doubleheader, WKU battled back from a four-run deficit in the eighth inning as the offense delivered with nine runs on 15 hits, but senior starter Austin Clay allowed nine runs in five innings of work.

The final game played on Sunday was tied at three runs a piece in the sixth inning until the Cajuns hit a grand slam, allowing ULL to take the lead and the weekend series despite comeback efforts in the eighth and ninth innings.

Overall, WKU outscored the Ragin’ Cajuns 27-20 in the series despite losing two of the three games. WKU now ranks fourth in the Sun Belt behind ULL, Arkansas State, Texas State and Troy.

“We played very good, I was very happy with our guys,” Myers said “If we play like that for the rest of the year we will be in really good shape.”

WKU opens a five game home stand at Nick Denes Field this week starting with Austin Peay Tuesday, Lipscomb Wednesday and Arkansas State this weekend.

Austin Peay (10-16) is 1-6 on the road this season with its lone win against Jacksonville State. The Governors’ best hitter is also their best pitcher. Freshman Alex Robles leads the team with a batting average of .374 while also boasting a 3.92 ERA in 41 innings of work.

“If we keep the same intensity and the way we played this weekend, we are going to be very tough to beat, whoever we play,” Myers said. “We just went toe-to-toe with the No. 1 team in the country and very easily could have won that series. I just want our guys to stay consistent.”