WKU carries momentum into FAU series

Senior outfielder Jared Andreoli slides into home to score in the bottom of the sixth inning at Bowling Green Ballpark Tuesday night. WKU beat No. 18 Louisville 8-1.

Kurt Carson

WKU was looking for some source of momentum heading into a stretch against quality Sun Belt Conference opponents.

The Toppers hope they got that kind of boost Tuesday night when they defeated No. 18 Louisville 8-1 at Bowling Green Ballpark.

Junior shortstop Steve Hodgins called the win “something we needed.”

WKU (19-26, 9-12 Sun Belt Conference) faced the Cardinals coming off a series loss to Louisiana-Monroe that put itself in a three-way tie for sixth place in league standings, just a game ahead of the two teams that would currently miss the Sun Belt Tournament.

Head Coach Matt Myers said it was an important victory as his team heads to Boca Raton, Fla., to take on league-leading Florida Atlantic (26-17, 14-5) this weekend, with the first game set for 5 p.m. Friday.

“This is momentum because we beat one of the best teams in the country,” Myers said. “Maybe this will take some positive energy down there.”

Myers said one reason for the positive energy is due to how the offense has progressed as of late.

The Toppers have averaged 6.9 runs per game over their last seven games, 1.9 runs per game higher than their season average.

“Guys are buying in to what we’re trying to do,” Myers said. “The offense has been improving, and the bats have been improving over the last three weeks.”

Offensive progress can be seen in WKU scoring eight runs on Tuesday night, compared to just two runs on three hits in a 9-2 loss to the Cardinals on April 3.

Freshman left-hander Ian Tompkins agreed that the victory over Louisville proves to be a good sign for not only the offense but also the entire team heading into a tough upcoming series.

“It gives us a lot of confidence to go in and face the No. 1 team in the conference,” Tompkins said. “We have to have a game like this to push us in there. I think we’re going to have a lot of success this weekend riding this game out.”

FAU is led offensively by senior catcher Mike Albaladejo (.359 average, 2 home runs, 24 RBIs), and junior outfielder Mark Nelson (.301 avg., 6 HRs, 37 RBIs).

The Owls’ ace is senior right-hander Ryan Garton (8-2, 2.75 ERA, 66 strikeouts), while they bring junior right-hander R.J. Alvarez (4-0, 0.61 ERA, 7 saves) from the pen.

Just because FAU is located at the top of the standings in the Sun Belt doesn’t mean they’re going to be intimidated to face them, Hodgins said.

“It’s just a challenge for us really,” Hodgins said. “Yeah, I mean, they’re No. 1 in the conference, but we’re playing good baseball right now, and I’m excited to see what we can do.

“Hopefully we can take a series from them and move up our standing in the league.”

Myers said he would hate to see WKU miss the tournament, which will be played May 23-27 at Bowling Green Ballpark, given how well he said his team playing right now. He said the Toppers control their own Sun Belt Tournament fate.

“I told these guys, ‘You have to make sure we go down to Florida Atlantic and get our rear-ends back into this tournament, because you guys can do some special things,’” Myers said.

But Myers said he’s not worried, because he knows his team is prepared.

“Our guys are ready,” Myers said. “They want to get after FAU. They’re ready to get on that plane flight.”