WKU handles UNC Asheville, No. 6 Vanderbilt looms

WKU’s junior left handed pitcher Ian Tompkins (10) pitches during the 8th inning of WKU’s 6-4 victory over Southern Illinois Feb. 16, 2014, at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky. (Mike Clark/HERALD)

Billy Rutledge

Coach Matt Myers homecoming against his former team went exactly as planned this weekend with his team sweeping UNC-Asheville. It was the first time Myers has faced the Bulldogs since coaching them from 2001-04.

WKU (5-2) was able to come out on top all three days and win their second weekend series out of two on the season.

Key hits in Friday’s game took the Toppers out of the eighth inning down 5-3.  Juniors Philip Diedrick and Cody Wofford and seniors Scott Wilcox and Ryan Flaherty helped drive in five runs on four hits to take the lead back to secure the Toppers first win against the Bulldogs, 8-5.

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

Unlike his teammates seniors Austin Clay (2-0) and Jake Thompson (2-0) who started Saturday and Sunday, Justin Hageman (1-0) had a much more difficult time on the mound.

UNC Asheville scored all five of its runs in the first two innings of the game Friday while Hageman was on the mound.

With two outs in the second inning, an error by Wofford kept the inning alive and led to four of those five runs coming in. Only one of five given up by Hageman was earned but the damage had already been done.

Saturday, the script was flipped and it was WKU that lead early.

This time, it was the Bulldogs who rallied late but unlike Friday, the leading team was able to hold on and secure the victory, with the Toppers coming away with a 6-4 win.

Besides the eighth inning, the game was going exactly to plan for the Toppers. Clay went five strong innings without giving up a run and had his career low in hits allowed in a game after five innings pitched.

“When I slow myself down, things start rolling a little bit better,” Clay said. “I was able to get out of some situations (Saturday) and settle in.”

He was the one who set the tone for WKU early and allowed the offense to ease into the game instead of playing catch up like the majority of games this year.

That seemed to work as the team ended with 14 hits and senior Scott Wilcox and sophomore Trevor Lowe were two of many batters that shined.

Wilcox went 4-for-5 with two RBI’s and a homerun and also ended a triple short of the cycle in his third career four-hit game.

Lowe, who has shown productive numbers lately, went 3-for-4 and had two critical moments in the beginning and end of the game scoring the second run and driving in the last.

“We have a circular lineup, it doesn’t matter who is coming up,” Myers said. “We have so many hitters I can’t get all these guys in the lineup and it’s nice to have that problem.”

Strong outings out of the bullpen and consistent offensive production have been keys to WKU’s fast start. In all three games WKU surpasses 10 hits as a team for a total of 43 hits on the weekend.

The Toppers made it an official sweep with an easy 13-2 decision over the Bulldogs Sunday. The middle innings is where WKU did most of their damage scoring five runs in the fifth and four runs in the sixth. A large part of the scoring Sunday was due to the back end of the batting order. The seven- eight- nine hitters combined to go 7-13, six RBI’s, two runs and a home run.

Thompson is the Sunday starter for WKU and today he was able to clinch his second win in his second outing. Thompson went five innings, with three strikeouts and one earned run on 98 pitches for the Toppers.

“The bottom part of our lineup once again was productive, five, six hits from them,” Myers said. “When that’s happening everyone is building momentum off of each other.”

WKU will face its biggest test yet with another trip to Nashville, this time against No. 6 Vanderbilt (7-0) at 4:00 p.m. The Commodores lead the all-time series against WKU 32-59-2, and last played the Toppers in 2011, winning that contest in Nashville 6-5.