Toppers split mid-week games, head to Miami next

Austin Lanter

Coming off of a three-game conference-opening sweep of rival Middle Tennessee State, the WKU baseball team split a pair of mid-week games against Kentucky and Lipscomb. The Toppers will travel to FIU for a three-game set this weekend.

Last weekend, the Toppers were lead by senior first baseman Ryan Huck, who had four home runs on the series with seven RBIs. That performance earned him Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week, the conference announced Monday.

Huck did not slow down for Tuesday’s game against Kentucky either.

WKU traveled to Lexington Tuesday, eyeing its fourth straight win and fifth win in the last six tries against the Wildcats. Huck led the team to a 6-3 win over in-state rival and No. 8 team in the country in UK.

On the day, Huck went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs.

The Toppers rushed to a three-run first inning lead and relied on the pitching to close out the game.

The Wildcats made it interesting in the ninth, loading the bases with one out, but senior pitcher Taylor Haydel forced a game-ended double play.

The next night, however, WKU would blow a three-run lead and eventually fall in extras to Lipscomb.

“We’ve been playing well, we swept Middle and got UK, but that doesn’t mean we had to come out flat tonight,” sophomore catcher Ryan Messex said after the Lipscomb game. “We showed up early but once the game got going we kind of packed it in, but we’ll be OK.”

WKU scored one run in the second, third, and fourth inning to take a 3-0 lead.

Messex got the Topper offense going in the second with a lead-off home run, his second of the season.

After a strong outing from freshman pitcher Jackson Sowell, coach Matt Myers turned it over to the bullpen, which he said really struggled against the Bisons and was constantly behind in the count to batters.

Myers, however, was quick to praise Sowell.

“Jackson Sowell was phenomenal,” Myers said. “For him to come out and throw four innings of three hit baseball, five strikeouts, one walk, I mean you couldn’t have asked for a better thing.”

WKU took a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning, but Lipscomb was able to score a pair of runs in the eighth to tie the game. The Bisons would eventually take a one-run lead in the ninth inning as well.

However, in the ninth inning, senior Devin Kelly connected on a sacrifice fly to score junior infielder Scott Wilcox and tie the game once more.

The game then went into extras and Lipscomb was able to plate the game-winning run, also off a sacrifice fly — the run was unearned due to sophomore pitcher Ian Tompkins walking the batter earlier in the inning.

“We’ve got to finish that game,” Myers said. “We played the first half well and the second half we were awful. And that’s just maturity and the guys focusing.”

Next, WKU (11-10, 3-0 SBC) will travel to Miami, Fla., for a three game series against Sun Belt opponent FIU (11-10, 1-2 SBC).

“We’re going to be ready,” Messex said. “We’re going to go down there and give them a fight. We’re going to battle all nine innings every game.”

The three games will be at 5 p.m., 3 p.m., and noon Friday through Sunday respectively.