WKU goes 1-2 in opening weekend

Austin Lanter

Despite losing the first two games of the opening weekend series against Bowling Green State (2-1), the WKU baseball team (1-2) was able to secure its first victory of the year on Sunday and avoid an opening weekend sweep.

The first two losses, however, cost the Toppers the series and is their second straight opening weekend series loss.

All three games in the series were decided by one run. It was the first time since 1952 that WKU started a season with at least two straight one-run games.

WKU sent junior pitcher Justin Hageman to the mound Friday and he got off to a rocky beginning in his first career opening day start. Hageman lasted only one inning and allowed seven runs, four hits, walked five and hit another batter.

“I didn’t see it going the way it did,” coach Matt Myers said. “I didn’t see Justin going out there and walking seven guys. I knew he’d come out with the behind velocity, but to lose control like that, that’s tough.”

Despite the start from Hageman, the Toppers were able to hang in the game and have a chance to win it in the end.

After the second inning, WKU trailed 8-1. The bullpen kept the team in the game, retiring 21 batters in a row at one point.

The Topper offense got going in the seventh inning. Down 8-2 at this point, the team scored four runs in the seventh and two runs in the 8th to tie the game.

With neither team generating anything in the ninth, the game went into extra innings. The Falcons were able to break through in the tenth inning when they scored the deciding run off a WKU error in a 9-8 Topper loss.

“The whole game until the end, I never really felt like we were going to lose that game,” sophomore pitcher Austin Clay said. “Just the way we’ve been hitting the ball in practice and our arms are so deep. We’re going to be able to run as many guys out there as anybody we play. So we’re never going to be out of a game.”

WKU sent senior pitcher Tim Bado to the mound Saturday for game two of the series. In over five innings of work, Bado allowed a career-low four hits and two runs while throwing five strikeouts and no walks. At one point in the game, Bado had retired 11 consecutive batters.

One of those two runs allowed by Bado was a leadoff home run in the second inning. However, first baseman Ryan Huck was able to respond with a leadoff home run of his own in the bottom half of the inning. After two innings of play, the teams were tied 1-1.

Huck was able to connect on a double later in the game as well.

“(BGSU) made a couple mistakes and I was able to capitalize on them,” Huck said. “That’s our mentality – trying to make a mistake hurt them.”

After Bado, junior pitcher Jake Thompson entered the game and allowed one run in the seventh inning, which proved to be the game-winner. Thompson was credited with the loss for the game.

Myers was very pleased with the play of Bado to begin the game and said he and the rest of the pitching staff really kept the Toppers in the game.

“(Tim) did unbelievable,” Myers said. “That’s the start you’ve gotta have. That’s the start I expected from Justin (Hageman) yesterday. Tim was great and we needed it when we went to the bullpen early Friday. He gave us a chance to win and he was outstanding.”

The team entered Sunday’s game trying to avoid the opening weekend sweep.

After getting off to a hot start, scoring four runs in the first inning, WKU put it on cruise control for the rest of the game.

Junior pitchers Tanner Perkins and Andrew Edwards combined to throw 9.2 innings of shutout baseball. However, with two outs in the ninth inning, the Falcons reached base on a couple of errors and a wild pitch and were able to plate three runs off of Edwards.

At that point, sophomore pitcher Ian Tompkins came in and recorded the final out to give WKU the 4-3 win.

“We come out here every day trying to win ball games,” senior catcher Devin Kelly said. “We let two one-run ball games get away from us, so we easily could have been on the other side of that and had the sweep and been a little bit more happy and excited in this dugout but at least we got one.”

WKU will be back in action again this weekend with a three-game series against Central Michigan. Each game will be at Nick Denes Field and will take place at 3 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday.