WKU survives to defeat Arkansas State

WKU’s senior right handed pitcher Justin Hageman (31) pitches during the Topper’s 4-1 victory over Texas State Friday, March 21, 2014, at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky. Hageman pitched all nine innings notching nine strike outs and allowing only four hits. (Mike Clark/HERALD)

Billy Rutledge

Winning doesn’t come easy if a team pitches eight walks, gives up ten hits and commits three errors. But that is exactly what the WKU baseball team did against Arkansas State Friday night in an 8-6 win over the Red Wolves.

“We didn’t really do anything that well on defense but we stayed together in the dugout and had each others back.” junior catcher Ryan Messex said.

The bats were alive for the first game of a weekend series against the Red Wolves. The teams tallied a total of 19 hits and 14 runs but it was WKU that came away with the 8-6 win, marking the third straight wins for the Toppers (17-14) this week after defeating Austin Peay and Lipscomb earlier in the week.

The game almost slipped away from the Toppers in the sixth and seventh innings. In the sixth, the Topper’s starting pitcher, senior Justin Hageman, started to struggle.

With WKU leading 6-2, Hageman allowed two runners to score on a wild pitch and a RBI single. He then loaded the bases with two outs, but got out of the jam with the lead intact 6-4.

Hageman pitched six innings giving up eight hits, two earned runs on four strikeouts. It was Hageman’s third consecutive win coming off victories against Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas State. 

In the seventh inning junior Brennan Pearson replaced Hageman on the mound.

Pearson went on to walk the first three batters he saw on 13 pitches. Within those three walks, two wild pitches cut the lead to one. Pearson then proceeded to strike out the next three batters with the bases loaded on ten pitches to end the inning.

With three walks and three strikeouts in the same inning, WKU held on to their lead.

“It was real nerve racking for the first part because I wasn’t finding the zone with anything,” Pearson said. “Once I got the slider over the zone, everything started clicking and I really put all my trust in that pitch.”

Even after the chaotic seventh inning, the Red Wolves threatened to tie the game. In the eighth inning, a single and two walks by Arkansas State came close to tying it up, but Messex caught a runner stealing before junior Ian Tompkins was called in to end the inning. 

WKU proceeded to score two insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth on two two-out RBI doubles by Phillip Diedrick and Trevor Lowe.

With the game at 8-5, one run by the Red Wolves in the ninth wasn’t enough and WKU achieved victory.  

“It was big getting that Friday night win,” Pearson said. “Hageman was great and gave us a great opportunity to win on Friday night. When you score eight runs on Friday you should win nine out of ten times.”

WKU and Arkansas State will face each other two more times this weekend. The next game will be played at Nick Denes Field Saturday at 3 p.m.