‘Dore stoppers: WKU upsets No. 4 Vanderbilt

WKU sophomore right-handed pitcher, Josh Bartley, launches the toward home plate during the Toppers’ game against Southern Illinois on Feb. 15. Photo courtesy of WKU Athletic Media Relations.

Billy Rutledge

Josh Bartley has a habit of pitching good games against good opponents. As a freshman last season, the South Warren High School product helped to beat Louisville once and Kentucky twice last season.

Tuesday on the road at No. 4 Vanderbilt, Bartley picked up right where he left off. The sophomore pitched a career-high three strikeouts in six innings as the Toppers upset the undefeated Commodores, 3-2.

“Our team has loads of confidence and a win like this boosts it even more,” Bartley said. “All my pitches were working. I kept them off balance and I trusted my pitches.”

Bartley held Vanderbilt – a team that averages seven runs per game – to just two runs after six innings. Vanderbilt’s No. 4 ranking by the NCAA makes it the highest ranked team WKU has ever beaten. The Toppers have now defeated eight top 25 teams since 2008, five of which have been top 10 teams.

In Matt Myers’ three-year tenure with WKU, his teams have beaten four ranked teams.

“Never once were our guys rattled,” Myers said. “Never once were our guys intimidated, this bunch doesn’t get this way. That was a full team win. Everybody had their hand in on it and that’s what’s so neat about this team, everybody has given themselves up to contribute.”

The offense was alive for WKU once again as the Toppers racked up ten hits on a Vanderbilt pitching staff that had held opponents to a .139 batting average. Senior Scott Wilcox and sophomore Hunter Wood combined for three RBI’s in the first five innings as WKU jumped out to an early 3-0 lead.

After two runs scored by the Commodores in the sixth, WKU was able to control the damage and put in junior Ian Tompkins on the mound in the eighth inning. Tompkins, who was selected as the only relief pitcher on the Preseason All-Sun Belt team, was able to record his fourth save of the year and secure the biggest win in program history.

WKU has a tough weekend ahead with three different opponents in three days in the Keith LeClair Classic.

On Friday, East Carolina (3-5) will enter battle-tested after being swept by the No. 1 team in the nation Virginia. The Cavaliers have three batters batting over .300 so far this season, most notably sophomore catcher Travis Watkins who is batting .333 and earned Conference USA All-Freshman team honors last season.

The Pirates will start junior Jeff Hoffman, who is anticipated as one of the first pitchers selected in next year’s MLB draft. Hoffman was selected to the first team of Baseball America’s preseason All-Americans.

The Toppers play Ohio State Saturday and Pittsburg Sunday, both teams are combined for 9-4 on the season.

Myers believes this road swing is unlike the rest and that it’s important to do well with conference play just around the corner.

“It’s going to be a little different than a normal road weekend being the fact that we’re facing three different opponents,” Myers said. “Each day it’s a different approach, a different look.

“Our biggest thing is to concentrate on each game, on each pitch. It’s great to go on a trip like this and really get to prepare before we go into Georgia State in a couple of weeks.”