WKU knocks Southern Illinois out of the park in Sunday double-header

WKU’s senior infielder Scott Wilcox (11) hits a home run giving the Toppers a 5-4 lead over Southern Illinois in the 5th inning Feb. 16, 2014, at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky. The Toppers would go on to win 6-4. (Mike Clark/HERALD)

Billy Rutledge

Strong pitching once again proved to be the calling card for WKU baseball during its opening weekend. The Toppers hosted Southern Illinois for a three-game series, including a double-header Sunday due to a rain cancellation from Friday.

The Toppers’ bats were cold in the first game, only getting two runs in the first inning before dropping the opening day game 3-2.

But Sunday was different. The weather was warmer and so were the bats as the Toppers pulled off 19 hits in two games, taking the first of a double-header 6-4 and closing out the series with a 6-1 win.

The first game didn’t start out as planned though. In the top of the first the Salukis scored four runs on four hits putting the Toppers and senior Austin Clay in a big hole. But slowly, WKU fought its way back with two solo home runs from junior Cody Wofford, another bomb from senior Scott Wilcox and twelve hits for the game.

After that first inning, Clay calmed down and began to pitch like a Saturday starter again. He found his groove in the middle innings recording five strikeouts and not allowing another run until he was pulled in the sixth inning.

After Clay went out, the pitching got even better. Junior Tate Glasscock was the first out of the bullpen and worked out of a jam in the sixth without giving up a run. After another solid inning, it was junior Ian Tompkins who was handed the ball last to close the game. Tompkins, a member of the pre-season All- Sun Belt Conference team, faced seven batters and struck out four of them.

Add junior Ryan Messex’s 15th and Scott Wilcox’s 46th multi-hit games and an insurance run from junior Phillip Diedrick and you have the Toppers first win of the day 6-4.

“You can always overcome early runs, it’s the late runs that are tough,” Coach Matt Myers said. “We didn’t press after the first inning, we know we can hit.”

After a 40-minute break, the two teams were battling again but this time it was the Toppers that got off to a fast start. WKU had three straight hits in the first inning and took a one run lead early. Senior pitcher Jake Thompson was also fast out of the gates as he didn’t give up a hit until the fifth inning.

It was back in the fourth inning where WKU did some real damage. A leadoff home run by Ryan Church ignited an inning full of three hits, two throwing errors by Southern Illinois and a catcher’s interference call. After the smoke cleared the Toppers had taken a 5-0 lead.

Church’s leadoff homerun was the fourth leadoff homerun for WKU Sunday, as Wofford had two and Wilcox had one as well. It was smooth sailing after that, some quality work out of the bullpen once again by sophomore Jackson Sowell and freshman Sam Higgs assured that WKU would win the weekend series. The final score 6-1.

“It was a team performance,” Thompson said. “I had great defense behind me, the bats got going early and Jackson and Higgs were behind me throwing up zeros, pounding the zone.”

With the two wins, the Toppers advance to 2-1 on the season. This was the first time that WKU had won both games of a double header since March 15 of last season. The next game for WKU will be an away game Tuesday against Belmont. Then the team has a weekend series at Nick Denes field against UNC Ashville.