Stephens: Lowe could be next great Topper

Brad Stephens

Trevor Lowe waited on a fastball.

WKU’s center fielder was leading off the bottom of the 18th inning, with his Toppers and Kentucky locked in a 2-2 tie at Bowling Green Ballpark.

Two innings earlier, with a runner on first and two outs, Lowe grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. WKU coach Matt Myers said he didn’t want another “little dribbler over to second base.”

“I told him when he came in you better swing hard if you’re going to swing,” Myers said.

And so, with a 1-1 count, Lowe waited in the box for a fastball at which he could take a big hack.

Only this time Wildcat reliever Zach Strecker hung a curveball in the strike zone. Lowe, the 5-9, 160-pound freshman, held back on the ball and then pounced.

He sent the ball on a line drive down on the third base line, running to first as it cleared the outfield wall and landed in the Topper bullpen. A bunch of worn-out baseball players cast aside their exhaustion in favor of exuberance, sprinting out of the WKU dugout to mob Lowe and carry him off the field.

Lowe’s blast had given the Toppers a 3-2 win in the longest college baseball game played this season in all of Division I.

“Was it 18 innings?” Lowe asked reporters after the game. As we nodded our heads in affirmation, he recapped the night in one word: “Golly.”

Lowe’s walk-off winner in the longest WKU game of record is the highlight of his freshman year thus far, and could one day still be the biggest moment of his career.

But even before Tuesday, the local kid is a big reason WKU stands 22-19 and 11-7 in the Sun Belt Conference.

Lowe, a Warren Central High School product, earned his first start March 6 against Austin Peay. He drove in two runs that day and has hardly been out of the lineup since.

In all Lowe’s started 21 games this year, all in center. When he starts, the Toppers are 14-7. When he doesn’t, WKU is 8-11.

Like most freshman he’s struggled at times at the plate, but in all Lowe could do a lot worse than his current .260 batting average. He’s been clutch with his hits, collecting 14 RBIs this year with 19 hits. Lowe has also done the little things, producing six sacrifice hits, tied with shortstop Scott Wilcox for the highest number on the team.

Defensively Lowe has adjusted well to playing center-field in big college baseball parks as opposed to the smaller ballparks at the high school level.

Who knows how the rest of Tuesday’s game would’ve played out had he not made a great diving catch to rob UK’s Zac Zellers of extra bases in the first inning.

All in all, it’s been a good freshman year for a guy who started his college career last fall on the mound.

“He came to us as a pitcher,” Myers said. “Then he started swinging in some intrasquad (scrimmages). The kid is just tough. He’s having fun and he deserves all the credit and success he’s had.”

When asked to compare Lowe to a former WKU player, Myers thought Lowe matched up well with former Topper Scott Kaskie. Kaskie played outfield for the Toppers in 2007 and ’08, leading WKU in runs both seasons and ranking third on the school’s career records list for triples (12).

Lowe holds a lot Kaskie’s qualities, Myers said — good glove, solid bat, good speed.

But Lowe will have the next three years to determine the type of player he’ll become. If Lowe holds on his current course, he’ll end up a four-year starter in center with a chance to become the next great WKU baseball player.

Lowe will also have a chance to get plenty more big hits like he did Tuesday.