Head Coach Matt Myers walked off the field Sunday with a smile on his face.
It came just minutes after his WKU team had won in walk-off fashion to clinch a series victory over Arkansas-Little Rock in its last home game for three weeks.
The Toppers (12-16, 4-5 Sun Belt Conference) rallied to defeat UALR (16-12, 3-6) by a score of 8-7 in 11 innings at Nick Denes Field.
WKU trailed the Trojans 7-3 heading to the bottom of the sixth inning.
UALR starting right-hander Ethan Schlechte issued a walk, gave up a single and hit a batter that loaded the bases for WKU with no outs.
The Trojans pulled their starter and handed the ball to left-hander Andrew Hohn with WKU junior pinch hitter Adam Lavelle up to the plate.
Lavelle hit a sacrifice fly to left field that plated a run and cut UALR’s lead to 7-4.
A single by senior second baseman Ivan Hartle and an error by left fielder Sean Bignall allowed another run to score and made it even closer at 7-5 with just one out.
Senior center fielder Jared Andreoli recorded a sacrifice fly of his own to make it 7-6 UALR with a Hartle on second base, two outs and senior third baseman Casey Dykes up to bat.
Dykes ripped a two-out RBI single up the middle to score Hartle and tied the game up at 7-7.
Dykes finished the game going 5-for-6 at the plate with two RBIs – a career-high number of hits in a game for him.
The comeback was complete and the Toppers had tied it up with a four-run sixth inning.
While they had their chances, both teams were held in check over the next 4 1/2 frames.
WKU had a strong effort out of the bullpen by junior right-hander Taylor Haydel who pitched four scoreless innings and allowed just one hit while earning the win.
Myers said he was simply a key in the win.
“I don’t know what to say about what he’s doing for us,” Myers said. “He’s unbelievable.”
Senior right fielder Ryan Hutchison led off the bottom of the 11th inning with a single and was pinch-ran for by sophomore outfielder Jordan Cessna.
Junior designated hitter Blake Crabtree attempted a sacrifice bunt but ended up reaching second base on an error by the pitcher and Cessna moved over to third base.
The Trojans decided to intentionally walk sophomore left fielder David Simmons, who was 3-for-3 on the day to bring up junior shortstop Steve Hodgins.
With the bases loaded and the winning run on third base, Hodgins lined a single to center field that scored Cessna and gave the Toppers a 8-7 walk-off victory.
Hodgins said when they intentionally walked Simmons he knew he had to be the one to come through.
“I kind of just accepted the challenge,” Hodgins said. “I was just trying to get that last run in and fortunately it happened to go our way.
“I got a good fastball at the plate and put a good swing on it.”
Dykes said the team simply showed a lot of fight today.
“There’s been a couple games this year where we’ve gotten down early, hung our heads and haven’t fought,” Dykes said. “But today we showed we’ve learned from that and put that on display.”
WKU could’ve easily hung its heads with the way things started off against UALR.
Freshman left-hander Ian Tompkins started for the Toppers and struggled from the get-go, allowing three earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings of work.
While Tompkins allowed no hits he issued five walks which caused Myers to go to his bullpen early.
“Usually on Sunday’s it’s a battle not to get to the bullpen first,” Myers said. “But Ian was kind of dragging and didn’t look sharp.”
The Trojans put three runs on the board in the top of the second inning on back-to-back run-scoring singles by second baseman Chris Burk and third baseman Nick Rountree to take a 3-0 lead.
UALR expanded its lead to 5-1 in the top of the fifth inning on an RBI double by catcher Blake Johnson and a sacrifice line drive by designated hitter Kaleb Jobe.
However WKU countered in the bottom half of the inning with two runs of its own.
RBI doubles by Dykes and Hutchison cut UALR’s lead to 5-3 after five innings of play.
A controversial call in the top of the sixth inning gave the Trojans a 7-3 lead.
Rountree sent a ball to deep left field that Myers thought went foul. However the umpires ruled it fair for a two-run home run.
The Toppers would eventually get revenge as they used a four-run bottom of the sixth inning to tie it up and eventually win in extras.
Hodgins said the win feels especially great the way they battled back.
“It was a team win,” Hodgins said. “We all chipped away and just battled. It was a great comeback win for us and something we needed as a team.”