Belmont tops Toppers in extra innings

Austin Lanter

The WKU baseball team blew a four run lead in the seventh inning and fell to Belmont 7-6 in 11 innings Wednesday.

This is the fourth time this season WKU has played a one-run game, coming out on the losing side three of those four times. The loss is also the fifth straight to Belmont.

For the second straight day, WKU (3-5) sent a freshman pitcher to the mound to make their first career start against the Bruins.

Belmont (7-2) was able to get runners on base early in the game, including runners on first and second in the first inning with only one out. Freshman pitcher Josh Bartley was able to pick the runner off at second base and then strikeout a batter to get out of the inning with no harm done.

In the second inning, Bartley walked his first batter in the second and hit the second to give the Bruins base runners. A couple batters later, freshman outfielder Joseph Stovall recorded an RBI single to give Belmont a 1-0 lead.

The Toppers were able to avoid any more damage in the inning despite the Bruins having the bases loaded.

Senior catcher Devin Kelly had a lead off home run in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game once more. The homer was Kelly’s second of the season.

In his first start, Bartley went three innings, allowed two hits, one run, struck out three, walked two and hit four batters. He made his Topper debut last weekend against Central Michigan, pitching 3.1 innings, allowing two hits, no runs, and recording three strikeouts.

Bartley also allowed two base-runners in the first three innings of the game but only allowed the one run.

In the bottom half of the third inning, junior outfielder Regan Flaherty extended his own hitting streak to eight games with a single. The hit moved junior infielder Scott Wilcox to third. Wilcox would score soon after on a passed ball by the Belmont pitcher Dom Veltri to give WKU a 2-1 lead after three.

WKU added to its lead in the fifth inning. After Flaherty and Kelly led off the inning with two straight singles, senior infielder Ryan Huck came to the plate as a pinch hitter and connected on a three-run home run to give the Hilltoppers a 5-1 lead.

The home run was Huck’s second of the season. Before the homer, Huck was 1-for-13 at the plate.

“We were putting together some quality at bats today,” Huck said. “We had some good AB’s (at bats). We were trying to work with the count, stay to our approach in the middle, and look for mistakes like we usually do.”

Belmont broke through in the seventh inning scoring four runs to tie the game at five.

After getting two on with one out, senior infielder Drew Turner hit a two-run double to make it 5-3. The next run came off of an error by freshman infielder Thomas Peter. After that, senior infielder Josh Davis singled to center to tie the game up for the Bruins.

Sophomore pitcher Austin Clay came on in relief of Bartley and pitched well for three innings. However, Clay allowed all four of the Bruins runs in the seventh and was replaced by senior pitcher Taylor Haydel, who was able to get out of the inning without any more damage being done.

Before Clay went out though, he was able to record six strikeouts, tying a career high. In all three outings this season, Clay has had at least four strikeouts.

Neither team was able to generate anything in the eighth inning.

Davis, however, came through in the clutch again for the Bruins in the ninth inning, connecting on a go-ahead RBI single to left field, giving Belmont the 6-5 lead.

But it wasn’t over yet.

Freshman outfielder Anderson Miller connected on a two out double to score one run and tie the game once more and send it into extra innings.

“That’s the one things that’s guaranteed, we never give up,” coach Matt Myers said. “There’s no moral victories. We have to have a belief that we’re gonna win these games. You gotta be able to put people away.”

After a scoreless tenth inning, Belmont would break through in the eleventh inning plating the game-winning run off an RBI single by senior infielder Judah Akers with two outs.

WKU was scheduled to play Southern Illinois on the road this weekend, but due to inclement weather, instead of playing three games, the teams will play two, both at 1 p.m. on Sunday and Monday. The Toppers will then return home for a game against Austin Peay at home Tuesday at 3 p.m.