Toppers prepare for Louisville at Bowling Green Ballpark

WKU’s redshirt junior catcher Ryan Messex (30) swings during the team’s game against Texas State Friday at Nick Denes Field. The Toppers defeated the Bobcats 4-1. (Mike Clark/HERALD)

Billy Rutledge

WKU baseball is accustomed to playing in big time games. So far this year, the Toppers (13-11) have already defeated Vanderbilt (ranked No. 4 at the time), Pittsburg and Illinois.

The Toppers will have to prepare for yet another big challenge against No. 7 Louisville at Bowling Green Ballpark Wednesday at 5:00 p.m.

The Cardinals (17-6) reached the College World Series last season after defeating No. 2 Vanderbilt in the Super Regional. But before that, WKU beat them at Bowling Green Ballpark.

WKU pulled a 6-5 walk-off upset win on then No. 8 Louisville last season. Regan Flaherty hit a base loaded two out single to right field for the game winner. Josh Bartley, who is predicted to start tonight, recorded the victory for the game last season.

WKU is 6-0 all-time at Bowling Green Ballpark with all wins coming against either Louisville or Kentucky, and holds the overall series lead over the Cardinals, 68-62.

“It was pretty special for us to go down there and play,” Coach Matt Myers said. “The last four years we’ve played great there but if you go play like you have the past week and a half you’re going to get embarrassed.”

Louisville has struggled this year — just like WKU. A 17-6 record looks good on paper, but the Cardinals’ have played only one ranked team, Indiana, which they lost twice to.

The Cardinals lost eleven players last year but many high level players still remain on the roster. Louisville has six players batting at or over .299. The most productive senior outfielder, Jeff Gardner, is batting .380 and leading the team in RBI’s (31).

“We are going to need to play our best game and hopefully we take care of business,” senior outfielder Regan Flaherty said. “We have to get back to battling as a team. We’re a good team and it’s a matter of time before we play our best baseball. Energy and competitiveness will get us back on track and hopefully we bring that [tonight].”

The past week for the Toppers has not been anything to brag about. After a 10-3 loss at Kentucky, WKU played a weekend series at Nick Denes Field against Texas State that didn’t go as planned. WKU took the first game but lost two in a row to drop the series to open Sun Belt Conference home play.

Justin Hageman pitched a complete game in the Toppers’ only win of the series and only allowed four hits and no earned runs. The trend of good pitching didn’t stick with the Toppers though while Texas State combined for 20 runs in the next two games.

Saturday’s game was the complete opposite as the WKU pitching staff walked 12 batters. That’s more than the amount of strikeouts they had (10) and a 13-4 loss didn’t help the teams’ confidence.

A 7-5 loss was chalked up to missed opportunities. WKU left 11 runners on base and still had an opportunity to tie the game in both the eighth and ninth innings. Down two runs, the first two batters got on for WKU in the 9th, but they still did not score.

Myers says heading to Bowling Green Ballpark, a place the Toppers have never lost, may be a good change in things, and hopes it’ll help his team get out of a slump.

“If you go play there like you have the past two days you’ll get embarrassed,” Myers said. “Louisville and Kentucky — I’ve already talked to their coaches and they’re talking about how they can find a way to win down there so its pretty special for us to go down there. It may be a good change in environment. I’m just disappointed we lost at home.”