It was back-and-forth all night in game two between WKU and Middle Tennessee State.
But it seemed as though MTSU had found the perfect opportunity to break through in the top half of the 13th inning.
However, sophomore right-hander Justin Hageman maneuvered his way out of a bases-loaded jam and kept the game scoreless.
WKU (24-30, 13-16 Sun Belt Conference) took advantage of the Blue Raiders’ missed opportunity as it defeated MTSU (28-27, 13-16) by a score of 5-4 in 13 innings Friday night at Nick Denes Field.
The victory also clinched the Toppers a spot in the SBC Tournament that WKU will host at Bowling Green Ballpark beginning Wednesday.
“We just did some things tonight that you got to do to win and we executed perfectly,” Head Coach Matt Myers said. “I’m speechless.”
Hageman came back out to pitch the 13th inning for the Toppers after having already escaped a number of jams.
MTSU right fielder Trent Miller led off the frame with a single and designated hitter Robert Lawrence reached on an error by Hageman the put runners on first and second base for the Blue Raiders with no outs.
Hageman got the next batter out but proceeded to walk left fielder Jordan Rorex to load the bases for MTSU with just one out in a 4-4 tie.
However, center fielder Ryan Stephens grounded into a fielder’s choice out at home and Hageman fanned catcher Dain McNabb for the final out as the Blue Raiders stranded the bases loaded.
“I was just trying to do it for the seniors,” Hageman said. “I knew we had to win this game.”
The Toppers quickly keyed in on MTSU’s missed chances in the bottom half of the 13th inning.
Junior catcher Ryan Huck led off with a single and sophomore left fielder David Simmons reached on a fielder’s choice.
With runners on first and second base, junior catcher Devin Kelly lined a base-hit in to center field but pinch-runner Brennan Pearson was held up at third base to set up a bases-loaded situation with no outs.
Freshman Kelby Chowning came on to pinch hit but went down swinging for the first out.
But center fielder Jared Andreoli stepped up as a senior on the team and lined an RBI single to left field that scored Pearson and gave WKU a 5-4 walk-off victory.
“You just have to have confidence right there,” Andreoli said. “That guy’s been throwing me fastballs all night, I knew it was coming and luckily I put a good swing on it.”
“I knew he was going to have the opportunity,” Myers said. “I looked over and Andreoli said, ‘I’ll win it.’ I just said okay.”
The game-winning hit capped off a 3-for-6 day for Andreoli that raised his batting average to .282 on the season.
Junior left-hander Tim Bado started on the mound for WKU and pitched effectively but surrendered the first run of the game to the Blue Raiders.
A two-out, RBI single by leadoff hitter Ryan Ford gave MTSU a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning.
Sophomore shortstop Scott Wilcox answered with a two-out, RBI single of his own in the bottom of the third inning to tie the game at 1-1.
WKU gained its first lead of the night at 3-1 on a two-RBI single by senior second baseman Ivan Hartle in the bottom of the fifth inning.
But the Blue Raiders responded with two runs of their own in the top of the sixth inning on an RBI double by McNabb and an RBI single by Ford.
Both WKU and MTSU traded runs in the bottom of the seventh and top of the eighth innings that kept the game tied at 4-4.
The score would remain locked at four apiece until the Toppers broke through for a walk-off victory in the 13th inning.
WKU look for the series sweep tomorrow at 1 p.m. as freshman left-hander Ian Tompkins mans the rubber for the Toppers.
“I do not want to walk off the field tomorrow with our seniors and a loss,” Myers said. “We’re playing for them.”