WKU falls 5-3 to end any hope of advancing

Infielder, Scott Wilcox, trips while trying to catch a ball hit by Graham Odorn of University of South Alabama (USA) during the top of the second inning. The Toppers lost to USA 5-3.

Kurt Carson

WKU needed a lot to go its way on Thursday after suffering a loss to Florida Atlantic in its tournament-opener on Wednesday.

The Toppers would not only have to win out, but they also needed the Owls to lose both of their remaining games.

After FAU fell to Louisiana-Monroe in an extra-inning affair, WKU had some hope and motivation heading in to its nightcap bout with South Alabama.

But WKU (24-33) ended any hopes of advancing to Sunday’s championship game with its 5-3 loss Thursday night at the hands of South Alabama (22-34) in front of 923 fans at Bowling Green Ballpark.

“It was disappointing,” coach Matt Myers said. “We had a door opened for us and we haven’t had many breaks this year. Everything was in front of us but that’s on us.”

With the loss, the Toppers were eliminated from advancing to the championship game.

“We didn’t play good enough to win tonight,” Myers said. “You can’t do that when you have a door opened for you.”

Meanwhile, the Jaguars came in to the matchup with WKU having already been eliminated.

But that didn’t stop them from competing and fighting in their second game of tournament play.

South Alabama got on the board first in the top of the second inning when left fielder Nick Zaharion led off with a solo shot over the fences in left field to take a 1-0 lead.

Left-hander Andrew Fonzi got the start for the Jaguars and pitched brilliantly over 7 1/3 innings. He allowed just one run on three hits while striking out four.

The Toppers’ lone run off Fonzi came in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Fonzi got himself into trouble by issuing back-to-back leadoff walks to sophomore shortstop Scott Wilcox and senior right fielder Ryan Hutchison.

After senior third baseman Casey Dykes moved the runners over on a sacrifice bunt, junior first baseman Ryan Huck hit an RBI groundout to bring home the first WKU run and tie the game at one apiece.

But other than the one run, Fonzi silenced the Toppers’ offense.

South Alabama regained the lead in the top of the sixth inning after center fielder Jordan Patterson picked up a one-out single.

J.T. Files was brought on to pinch hit for the Jaguars and he homered on a fly ball to left-center field to plate two runs and give South Alabama a 3-1 advantage.

WKU had a runner on second base with no outs in each of the sixth and seventh innings but stranded him both times.

The Jaguars scored two more runs in the top of the eighth inning, capped off by an RBI double from second baseman Hunt Griffith to stretch their lead to 5-1.

WKU still managed to make some noise in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Junior pinch-hitter Adam Lavelle led off the inning with a walk and junior catcher Devin Kelly proceeded to hit a home run down the left-field line to cut South Alabama’s edge to 5-3.

Then with one out in the inning, senior center fielder Jared Andreoli drew a walk to bring the tying run to the plate.

But both senior second baseman Ivan Hartle and Wilcox popped out to end the threat and the game.

Despite being out of contention, the Toppers will face Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday at 7 p.m.

“I still expect our guys to come out and battle Monroe all the way until the end,” Myers said.

The Warhawks have already clinched a spot in Sunday’s championship game.