Walk-off homer propels WKU to win

Austin Lanter

Troy 7-6 Sunday.

The victory came courtesy of a leadoff, walk-off home run by senior Blake Crabtree in the 10th.

With the win, the Toppers won the series against the Trojans 2-1. It marks the first time ever that WKU (20-16, 10-5) has won back-to-back series’ against Troy (24-11, 8-7) after taking last years series 2-1.

The game marked the 15th time this season that WKU has played in a one-run game, boasting a record of 9-6 in those games. It was their sixth straight win in those games as well.

“Take two of three, but it’s the best hitting team we’ve seen and we held them to two hits in the last seven innings I think it was,” coach Matt Myers said.

WKU’s starting pitcher, senior Tim Bado, worked through his first inning quickly, only throwing six pitches.

Trojan pitcher Shane McCain, a perfect 6-0 this season entering the game, was well on his way to rolling through the inning as well, as he retired his first two batters quickly.

Senior first baseman Ryan Huck then stepped into the box with other ideas. Huck sent the McCain offering over the left field wall for his 11th homer of the season, giving the Toppers a 1-0 lead.

Bado would lead off the second inning with a walk to first baseman Trae Santos. Two batters later designated hitter Matthew Howard sent the ball to deep left field for an RBI double as Santos scored from second base to tie things up.

The Trojans would strand a runner on third in the inning to keep the game tied at one.

In the top of the third inning, the Toppers recorded three errors as Troy scored five runs to take its first lead of the game 6-1. Two of those three errors were committed by Crabtree.

“Tim Bado as a senior holding his maturity and not imploding,” Myers said.

The first two runs for Troy came off the bat of third baseman Logan Pierce on a single. The next three runs came a few batters later as left fielder Josh McDorman sent the Bado offering over the left field wall for a three-run shot.

Four of the five runs scored in the inning by Troy were unearned due to the three Topper errors.

“I feel like I let the team down early,” Crabtree said. “I had a bad third inning.”

In the bottom half of the frame, junior outfielder Jordan Cessna led the inning off with a solo home run of his own, hitting the foul pole on the left field side to make it a 6-2 game.

After 4.1 innings, Myers pulled Bado and replaced him with junior Jake Thompson. Bado allowed six runs on five hits as the defense committed four errors while he was in the game. Only two of the six runs Bado allowed were earned. He also had three strikeouts on the day.

Crabtree extended his hitting streak to six games with a leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth inning. Freshman outfielder Trevor Lowe brought Crabtree home two batters later to cut the Trojan lead to 6-3.

“We got behind early but we came back as a team and pulled it together,” Crabtree said.

The Toppers would strand runners on first and second later in the inning as junior shortstop Scott Wilcox and Huck both struck out.

WKU would load the bases for Huck with one out in the seventh inning, still down by three, and this time he delivered. Huck hit a sacrifice fly to score Lowe from third for his second RBI of the day to make it a 6-4 game.

Relief pitcher sophomore Ian Tompkins worked out of a jam in the ninth to keep the game at 6-4. With two outs, Tompkins struck out Santos, who leads the team in home runs, to end the inning.

In the bottom half of the frame, WKU was able to load the bases with one out as junior outfielder Regan Flaherty stepped to the plate. Flaherty hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score one run. The next batter, senior Devin Kelly, lined one past the third baseman to score another run and send the game to extras.

Junior pitcher Justin Hageman pitched in the top of the 10th inning for WKU retiring three of the four batters he faced and walking the other.

“(Jake) Thompson, Ian (Tompkins) — huge,” Myers said. “Justin Hageman coming back, he wasn’t very good Tuesday, he was phenomenal. Great composure and gave us a change to win.”

Crabtree led off the bottom of the 10th with a solo home run to give the Toppers the 7-6 win.

“I was just trying to get something going there in the last inning,” Crabtree said. “He just threw it in and I was cheating on it.”

WKU will be back in action this Tuesday against Lipscomb in Nashville, Tenn. Lipscomb beat the Toppers on March 20 5-4 in 10 innings in Bowling Green.