WKU drops opening day game 3-2 to Southern Illinois

Billy Rutledge

For the third straight year the WKU baseball team lost on opening day, this time it came against the Southern Illinois Salukis 3-2 at Nick Denes field.

The Toppers started out strong with a pair of doubles from senior Scott Wilcox and junior Ryan Church to make it 2-0 in the first inning of the year. But after that, the Toppers had little offensive production and ended the game with only four hits.

Justin Hageman, who got the start Saturday, looked strong and went six innings with one earned run and four strikeouts. His only run was given up in the second inning on a fielder’s choice but after that the senior commanded the mound.

“The whole team battled, made great plays behind me, kept balls in the infield and made outs.” Hageman said.

Hageman caught fire in the fifth and sixth inning where he had three of his four strikeouts and left batters shaking their heads on his curveball.

“You always try to save one pitch and when they are gearing up for fastballs, it’s very helpful.” Hageman said.

Coach Matt Myers praised his pitcher for such a strong opener.

“He had an unbelievable start, he gave us a chance to win and I told him if he pitches like that every Friday we are going to be really good,” Myers said. “He pitched tonight, he had some walks, but it never hurt him, he pitched, got some ground balls and showed some maturity.”

After Hageman was taken out, the Toppers bullpen struggled to maintain their lead. In the eighth inning the Salukis had three hits and a sacrifice fly to take the lead. WKU was unable to manage anything in the last two innings and went on to suffer their first loss of the season.

This game marked the 40th one run game in the Meyers era. WKU’s twenty games decided by one run in 2013 tied a program record last year. The Toppers are now 10-18 in their past 28 one run games after Friday. When Meyers was told that this was his 40th one run game he laughed for a bit before addressing the question.

“I was sitting there in the ninth inning saying here we are again,” Myers said. “It’s a sign pitching will always be a strength of ours and as long as we can pitch and play defense were going to be in games like that. We’re not afraid to be in any close games since were in so many.”

WKU will face Southern Illinois two more times tomorrow to end the weekend series. The first game of the double header tomorrow will begin at 11:00 a.m., while the second will be played forty minutes after the first game.