WKU held hitless over final eight innings in loss to No. 18 Louisville

Kurt Carson

LOUISVILLE — The Toppers fell flat over the final eight innings in their game against No. 18 Louisville at Jim Patterson Stadium.

WKU accumulated no hits the rest of the game after three singles in the first inning.

The Toppers (12-17) fell to the Cardinals (21-8) by a score of 9-2 as a result of its lack of offense.

Senior right fielder Ryan Hutchison said while things looked promising early, they didn’t continue capitalizing.

“You can’t give up the little opportunities that we did have during the game,” Hutchison said. “There weren’t very many the rest of the way and there’s no way we can win with three hits in the first inning and blank the rest of the way.”

Right-hander Jared Ruxer started for Louisville and allowed just two runs — one earned — on three hits in 5 1/3 innings. All of the runs and hits came in the first inning.

Left-hander Cody Ege, right-hander Dace Kime and left-hander Cole Sturgeon provided quality relief for the Cardinals over the last 3 2/3 innings.

They allowed no hits and walked just one while recording five strikeouts.

Louisville’s pitching shut down the Toppers on route to a 9-2 victory.

Head Coach Matt Myers said “their arms were just good.”

“You’re seeing really good arms mid-week,” Myers said. “The approach was to get the first good pitch you could have and get after it.”

WKU got off to a quick start and on the board in the top of the first inning.

Back-to-back singles by junior designated hitter Blake Crabtree and senior third baseman Casey Dykes put runners on first and second base for the Toppers.

With two outs, Hutchison singled on a line drive to center to score Crabtree.

Louisville center fielder Adam Engel tried to throw down Dykes going first-to-third but the throw sailed over the third baseman’s head and into the dugout.

Dykes scored and Hutchison advanced to third to give WKU an early 2-0 lead.

Sophomore left-hander Austin Clay started on the mound for WKU and retired the first seven batters he faced while pitching scoreless frames over the first three innings.

“I felt good over those first few innings,” Clay said. “I was able to mix in off-speed pitches which kept them off balance.”

However he ran into trouble in the fourth and fifth innings.

In the fourth inning, Clay issued a leadoff walk and gave up a two-run homerun to first baseman Stewart Ijames that tied the game at 2-2.

Clay finished having allowed five runs on four hits in 4 2/3 innings of work.

In the fifth inning, Louisville made plenty of noise with two outs.

With a runner on second, center fielder Adam Engel singled to score a run and give the Cardinals their first lead at 3-2.

After second baseman Nick Ratajczak singled and shortstop Zach Lucas drew a walk to load the bases for Louisville, Ijames singled to score two runs and break things open with a 5-2 lead.

The Cardinals stretched it to 6-2 in the same inning on an RBI single by third baseman Ty Young.

The four-run inning is what Myers said took all the life out of the game for WKU.

“I thought it took the energy out of this game,” Myers said. “When it was 2-2 I thought the momentum was still with us but we gave up four runs there and I think it took the wind out of our sails a little bit.”

The Cardinals tacked on three more in the bottom of the eighth inning on a three-run bomb by pinch-hitter Zak Wasserman that gave Louisville a 9-2 lead.

The Toppers never threatened and their last 11 batters were retired in order.

WKU will be back in action this weekend as it resumes Sun Belt Conference play at Louisiana-Lafayette.