Toppers rally with five runs late to defeat UNC Asheville, 8-5

Billy Rutledge

The WKU baseball team is known for their close games and Friday was nothing different as they edged the UNC Asheville Bulldogs 8-5 in the first game of a three game series.

The outcome didn’t look good for the Toppers going into the eighth inning down 5-3 but after four hits, a bit of luck and five runs, the team was able to secure their third win of the season.

“Tonight we showed we can come back from anything, it was good to get the win.” Wilcox said.

A leadoff double by junior Phillip Diedrick got WKU started on the right track. One batter later, junior catcher Ryan Messex took advantage of the situation hitting a single and after a throwing error by the Bulldogs, WKU scored a run began the comeback.

Next came two free bases after a walk and a hit by pitch, the bases were loaded for Wofford. He was able to make up for his earlier mistake by hitting a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game at five.

Scott Wilcox was next to the plate and he followed suite singling to center to put WKU on top 6-5.

When it looked like the rally was finally over and senior Ryan Flaherty popped up to right field, suddenly the Bulldog fielders couldn’t find the ball in the air.

Lost in the lights, the ball fell down next to three fielders in the outfield scoring two more runs for WKU in the process making it 8-5.

Junior reliever Ian Tompkins took the mound in the ninth to finish the game but not before creating some last minute drama.

With two outs, the Bulldogs loaded the bases only to be sat down looking by Tompkins for the last out of the game.

In typical WKU fashion the scoring for both teams started out early. In the first inning, the two teams traded blows and WKU came out on top taking a 2-1 lead after RBI’s from Junior Ryan Church and Sophomore Thomas Peter.

After that, senior Justin Hageman struggled to keep runs off the board.

UNC Asheville scored all five of its runs in the first two innings of the game.

With two outs in the second inning, an error by shortstop Cody Wofford kept the inning alive and led to four of those five runs coming in. 

The innings three thorough seven were pretty even after the scoring outbursts early and a lot of that had to do with solid pitching by both sides.

After Hageman was pulled in the 4th, freshman Sam Higgs went on to throw four innings of two hit baseball for the Toppers on the way recording four strikeouts and his first win of the season.

“We got a great defense behind me,” Higgs said. “I know that if I throw it into the zone and get weak contact they are going to make the play.”

WKU has two more games against the Bulldogs the next one being tomorrow at Nick Denes Field at 2 p.m.