Toppers prevail in longest D-I game this season

WKU Assistant Coach Blake Allen and senior infielder Steve Hodgins watch Kentucky’s meeting at the mound during WKU’s game against UK Tuesday. The Hilltoppers defeated the 24th-ranked Wildcats 3-2 in 18 innings

Austin Lanter

It took 18 innings, but the WKU baseball team knocked off No. 24 Kentucky 3-2 Tuesday night. With the win, the Toppers swept the season series over UK and handed the Wildcats their seventh straight loss.

The 18-inning game is also the longest Division I game this season.

“A tremendous college baseball game,” coach Matt Myers said afterwards. “It was really a game of the last man standing.”

WKU started the game hitting well, getting leadoff singles in both the first and second inning but nothing more from freshman pitcher Kyle Cody.

However, it wasn’t until the bottom of the third inning that the Toppers were able to capitalize on their chances.

Senior infielder Steve Hodgins extended his hit streak to five games with a one-out triple. Two batters later with two outs, junior infielder Scott Wilcox hit the Cody offering off the wall for an RBI double to give WKU the 1-0 lead.

After pitching five innings of two-hit, shutout baseball, junior pitcher Justin Hageman had his first pitch of the inning sent over the right field wall by sophomore outfielder Austin Cousino to tie the game at 1-1.

On the day, Hageman pitched 5.1 innings, allowed four hits, one earned run, walked two, hit one batter, and struck out four.

In the first three innings, the Toppers were able to record four hits. However, from the fourth inning to the eighth inning, only three WKU batters reached base, all three due to walks.

The Toppers didn’t record another hit until the ninth inning when junior outfielder Regan Flaherty singled with no outs and the game tied at one.

WKU would get runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the ninth but senior infielder Blake Crabtree flew out and junior outfielder Jordan Cessna grounded out to send the game to extra innings.

Like WKU, the Wildcats went through a long hitless streak in the game. Before a leadoff single in the 10th inning by junior catcher Michael Thomas, UK had not recorded a hit since the sixth inning, thanks to Clay.

UK was able to get runners on the corners but no further in the inning.

The Toppers had runners on first and second base with one out and senior first baseman Ryan Huck at the plate in the 10th. Huck, however, struck out swinging for the second out and sophomore outfielder Matthew Paculan followed suit for the third out.

The Wildcats broke the tie in the 13th inning with an unearned run. With two outs in the frame, Cousino popped up to Cessna in right field. Cessna dropped it for an error and Cousino reached third. The next batter, sophomore first baseman A.J. Reed hit an RBI double to left field to score Cousino.

“It’s one of those times I just messed up out there in the outfield,” Cessna said. “I told myself when I got back to the dugout that if I got back up (to bat) I wasn’t losing this game.”

In the bottom half of the frame, Paculan and senior catcher Devin Kelly started the inning off with a single each. Then, with two outs and Kelly and Paculan on second and third respectively, Cessna reached base on an error by shortstop Matt Reida, Paculan scored, and the game was tied once more.

The bottom of the 14th looked promising for the Toppers, as they loaded the bases with no outs. However, back-to-back strikeouts by Paculan and Kelly was followed by groundout by junior Griffith Roark to end the inning.

The game went all the way to the 18th inning when freshman Trevor Lowe hit a leadoff walk-off home run to give the Tops their third win this season over a national ranked team.

“I was ready for it to all end,” Lowe said. “We’ve been grinding this whole game and I was sitting on a fastball to be honest with you. I had my foot down and it ended up being a curve ball. It surprised me…This team right here, they fight through anything.”

WKU will be back in action this weekend on the road at Arkansas-Little Rock.