Improvement hasn’t fazed Toppers this year

Senior catcher Devin Kelley, right, and graduate assistant Casey Dykes celebrate after Toppers beat Louisville 6-5 at Bowling Green Ballpark, Tuesday.

Lucas Aulbach

For a team that went 25-33 last season, few expected to see WKU tied with Florida Atlantic at the top of the Sun Belt Conference come April.

Coach Matt Myers, though, said anyone paying attention last year could have seen improvement coming.

The Toppers were ravaged by injuries last season, including losing opening weekend starting pitcher Tanner Perkins. Myers said the improved depth from last season has spelled success for WKU (18-15, 8-4 SBC) this year.

“I think the guys are older and more confident,” the coach said. “They’re better and they’ve had more success early on.”

The success has come on both sides of the ball.

The Toppers have ridden a strong pitching staff that ranks No. 2 in the Sun Belt in team ERA as well as the strong bat of senior infielder Ryan Huck, currently sixth in the NCAA in home runs with 10 on the year.

Myers said the most impressive part of Huck’s season is the fact that he’s stayed consistent at the plate all year, even against top competition.

“He’s doing it against good pitching — it’s not against down-the-line guys,” he said. “Week in and week out he gets a big home run or a big double off a big-time guy on the opposing team.”

Anyone questioning how far the team has come since last season had a good chance Tuesday night, when the Toppers beat No. 8 Louisville 6-5 at Bowling Green Ballpark.

It was a close game — WKU earned the win with two outs in the bottom of the ninth as a single from junior infielder Regan Flaherty drove in the winning run. It was the second time the Toppers beat a top-10 team this season after topping No. 8 Kentucky back in March.

Myers said his team responded to the win by looking ahead to this weekend’s series against Troy.

“All we talked about yesterday at practice was great job of taking care of Louisville and being resilient and doing the things we needed to win, but now it’s two days to prepare for Troy,” he said. “Louisville’s gone. That game’s over and you’ve got to lock in Friday night because Troy’s coming here to beat you.”

Troy (23-9, 7-5 SBC) will be an important test at home for the Toppers. WKU will face the Trojans three times at Nick Denes Field — Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Trojans are currently a game behind WKU and Florida Atlantic for the lead in the Sun Belt and feature senior infielder Logan Pierce, who Myers said could be the best hitter in the whole league.

Pierce leads the conference in hits with 53 on the year. Troy junior infielders Tyler Vaughn and Danny Collins rank second and third in the conference in hits with 51 and 47, respectively.

Myers said he’s hoping to pick up a few wins this weekend to stay hot as the season starts to wind down. The Toppers are a little more than a month away from the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. which starts on May 22.

“In college baseball, momentum is contagious,” the coach said. “They say hitting is contagious — so is momentum and we’ve really had good momentum on the weekends. Now they’re starting to believe and get that attitude.”