Friendly Confines: WKU to host No. 23 Louisville at BG Ballpark

Senior outfielder Jared Andreoli is congratulated by junior catcher Devin Kelly and teammates after scoring the winning run off a walk in the bottom of the 11th inning Saturday at Nick Denes Field. WKU beat Louisiana-Monroe 7-6 for their lone win in the three-game weekend series.

Kurt Carson

WKU will be playing baseball in a familiar environment on Tuesday.

It’s an environment in which the Toppers are 3-0 over the past two seasons and have outscored their opponents by a 50-21 margin.

WKU (18-26) will play host to in-state rival and No. 23-ranked Louisville (31-13) at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night at Bowling Green Ballpark — the home of the Hot Rods.

“We’ve played well there, and hopefully it’s a big stage atmosphere-wise for our young guys to get that taste,” Head Coach Matt Myers said.

WKU defeated Kentucky by a score of 24-8 there in 2010, then beat Louisville 15-5 and Kentucky 11-8 in 2011 at the ballpark.

WKU’s three games there have drawn over 13,000 fans to the stands, including 5,142 in its game against UK last season.

Senior right-hander Ross Hammonds credits those kinds of numbers to his team’s performance on the field.

“It’s great,” Hammonds said. “Some of these younger guys haven’t had a chance to play in that atmosphere.

“We usually pack the stands, and the reason we do is because we put on a good show. Hopefully we can keep that going.”

The Toppers also host the Sun Belt Conference Tournament this season, which will be played at the Bowling Green Ballpark from May 23-27.

That’s another advantage to WKU.

“It’s a great advantage for us to play on that field before anyone else does for the conference tournament,” Myers said.

Senior right fielder Ryan Hutchison said it’ll be great just to get a look at how the field plays before other teams have the chance.

“Playing there Tuesday is a huge advantage — just getting used to the way it works, the way it bounces and other stuff,” Hutchison said.

However, it’s not all preparation that will be going on when the Toppers take the field Tuesday night.

WKU also faces a familiar opponent in Louisville.

Louisville has won six of its last eight games and come in ranked 34 in Ratings Percentage Index.

The Toppers and Cardinals have already met once this season.

WKU traveled to Louisville on April 3 in a game it lost by a score of 9-2.

But the Toppers led 2-0 in that game and were close until the middle innings, which is why Myers said he expects Tuesday night’s matchup to be “a good one.”

Hutchison said it’s simply going to be fun to get another crack at the Cardinals in a ballpark he’s seen the Toppers be successful.

“Hopefully we’ll keep the momentum from other times playing there,” Hutchison said. “It’ll be fun.”

Myers said he definitely wants another shot at beating their in-state rival.

But he also said he’s just excited to get the chance to gain experience in what is a very important ballpark for WKU’s future.

“Any time we have a chance to play at the ballpark is good, and hopefully the community comes out and supports us,” Myers said. “They’re a great opponent, and I’m looking forward to it.”