Toppers handling ‘business as usual’ against Myers’ former team

WKU baseball coach Matt Myers

Billy Rutledge

When WKU baseball coach Matt Myers looks over to the first base line this weekend, he’ll see uniforms that hold a special place for him. But it’ll be business as usual when the Toppers face UNC-Asheville this weekend, the school that gave Myers his first head coaching job, which he held from 2001-04.

He took the job at the age of 26, which at the time made him the youngest D-I coach in college baseball. Quickly he turned the Bulldogs around and finished in the top half of the Big South Conference in each of his final three years there. Including in 2003 where they won 27 games and Myers was named the league’s Coach of the Year.

Just like at WKU, pitching was his staple at Asheville. His staff set five school records during his tenure, and saw seven of his pitchers sign professionally and four others earn Freshman All-America honors. Asheville was where Myers began his head coaching career and now he gets to be in the opposite bullpen come first pitch.

“It’s business as usual, coming out here to win a series,” Myers said. “I’m excited to see Coach (Tom) Smith and Hunter Bryant, a kid I gave lessons too when I was there.”

The Toppers will look to rebound against UNC-Asheville this weekend as they are set to play a three game weekend series at Nick Denes field.

The Bulldogs finished the 2013 season 16-35 and finished fifth in the Big South Conference last year. After posting a 4-19 away record and losing nine position players, the Bulldogs were picked to finish last (6th) this year in their conference. But that doesn’t mean the Toppers should overlook their opponent.

Heading the pitching rotation for the Bulldogs is senior right-hander Dean Roland. Roland went 2-7 in 2013 but posted 61 strikeouts in a team-leading 90.1 innings. Position players to look out for are senior third basemen Robert McIntosh who has a career batting average of .328. Also Shortstop Tommy Houmard was Ashville’s leading hitter last year with a .321 average.

“I expect our guys to come out and be very competitive Friday,” Myers said. “Every weekend we expect to win two out of three.”

The Toppers’ one day trip to Nashville Wednesday was one that ended in similar circumstances to the team’s opening day loss to Southern Illinois. The team dropped a 7-3 decision to Belmont, a team they’ve been unsuccessful against for six-straight times now.

“We struggled offensively,” Coach Matt Myers said. “We got behind in the count, and it’s tough coming back on the road when behind.

Trailing 3-0 in the top of the fourth inning, the Toppers battled back by drawing two straight walks and scoring off a throwing error. WKU then tied the game off of sophomore Trevor Lowe’s two run single to make it 3-3. It wasn’t until the seventh and eighth innings when Belmont started pulling away and sealed the victory.

“This group of guys, we’re very positive,” sophomore third baseman Thomas Peter said. “We don’t let many things bother us; sure the bus ride was a little quite Tuesday, but todays a new day.”

WKU’s first game against the Bulldogs is Friday at 3 p.m. They are also set to play Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.