Toppers end weekend tournament with win over Pittsburgh

Billy Rutledge

Despite going 1-2 over the weekend in the 11th annual Keith LeClair Classic, WKU Coach Matt Myers likes where his team is early in the season.

The Toppers (7-4) forced East Carolina into extra innings and it took Ohio State an eighth-inning comeback to best the Toppers. It wasn’t until the final day of the tournament that WKU got its first win of the weekend against Pittsburg.

With a 2-2 record against national teams over the week — including an upset victory at No. 4 Vanderbilt —Myers said big competition is molding his team.

“We could have gone 3-1 this week against national teams and, who knows, may have produced a ranking,” Myers said. “Nonetheless, we’re a better team now by the competition we’re playing.”

East Carolina took advantage of a two-out error with runners at the corners to win against WKU Friday, and Ohio State rallied off four runs in the eighth inning to defeat the Toppers.

“We were disappointed the first two games went the way they did because I thought we were the best team there,” Myers said.

Senior Jake Thompson was the first to set the tone for the Toppers Sunday against Pittsburg as he went a career-long six innings with four strikeouts and no runs allowed. Thompson has now thrown at least five innings and surrendered no runs in two of his five career starts.

The game was a stalemate at one run apiece until two outs in the bottom of the 11th when Myers decided to pinch-hit junior Ryan Messex.

Messex drew a walk and senior David Simmons came to pinch run for him. After a wild pitch and an intentional walk, junior catcher Ty Downing provided the heroics, hitting a walk-off single.

It was WKU’s first walk-off hit since April 23 when sophomore Trevor Lowe hit one in the 18th inning to defeat Kentucky.

“We had some guys (Sunday) make some pitches,” Myers said. “Ty Downing had a great day and he’s played very well for us, but I think the big at-bat was Ryan Messex drawing a walk with two outs. We don’t have that inning if Ryan doesn’t have a good at-bat with two outs.”

The rest of the weekend was a heartbreaker for the Toppers. In the first game against East Carolina, WKU was up against one of the projected top picks in the 2014 MLB draft in pitcher Jeff Hoffman. The Pirates were able to win the game in the 10th inning off of a WKU error.

In day two of the tournament against Ohio State, the Toppers held a 4-1 lead headed into the eighth inning until the Buckeyes rallied and scored four runs to take the game 5-4. Senior Austin Clay put together his second consecutive scoreless outing, striking out four and allowing five hits in six shutout innings.

“We played extremely well, and I thought we played really well Friday and Saturday, we just couldn’t get one inning, and unfortunately it was one where we gave up a three-run lead in the eighth inning and it was tough,” Myers said. “But our guys showed their character by coming in and playing a 10:30 a.m. game after losing in two heartbreak losses.”

WKU’s game against Lipscomb scheduled for Tuesday will be rescheduled for Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. due to the inclement weather.