Offense looks to rebound against Arkansas State

Brad Stephens

Matt Myers knows some hitters that could help his slumping WKU lineup.

“We’re going to get Matt Rice, Kes Carter, (Wade) Gaynor and (Chad) Cregar and them to come back for us,” a laughing Myers said on Wednesday.

Unfortunately for the Toppers’ first-year head coach, none of those former WKU sluggers will be walking up the dugout steps at Nick Denes Field anytime soon.

Myers will instead have to get some increased production out of the players already in his lineup if the Toppers are to improve upon their performance from last weekend.

WKU (13-19, 5-7 Sun Belt Conference) scored just one run in the last two games against Louisiana-Lafayette last weekend, collecting one hit in a 2-1 loss to the Ragin’ Cajuns on Sunday.

The meager offensive output sealed a two-games-to-one series defeat to ULL despite the Topper pitching staff holding the Ragin’ Cajuns to five runs over the entire weekend.

WKU didn’t have any midweek games this week, instead practicing all week in preparation for a weekend road series with Sun Belt Conference rival Arkansas State (19-15, 8-4).

Senior right fielder Ryan Hutchison said the week off from games has been a good chance for hitters to re-think their approaches at the plate.

“Obviously those pitchers kind of dictated what we did a little bit,” he said of the Ragin’ Cajuns. “We want to be the ones dictating the pitcher. I think that’s one of our focuses this week.”

In the one game WKU did win last weekend, a 6-2 victory on Friday, senior center fielder Jared Andreoli led the way, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored.

The next two games, both Topper losses, he went 0-for-7.

“It comes down to when ’Oli has a good game we win,” Myers said.

Sophomore first baseman Scott Wilcox said Andreoli or any other WKU hitter getting on a hot streak would provide the spark the Topper lineup needs.

“The saying goes that hitting is contagious,” Wilcox said. “I think if one guy steps up and puts a couple of good at bats together, it can really help us get some confidence that we can do it.”

WKU will face one of its toughest opponents on the year on the mound on Friday in Arkansas State right-hander Jacob Lee.

Lee was named Preseason Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year in 2011. So far this season, he’s 3-1 with a 3.17 ERA.

“We’re facing one of the best arms in our league Friday night in Lee,” Myers said. “Just like Tanner (Perkins), Matt Ridings, you could say Justin Hageman — when your guy is on the mound, your team plays higher than maybe what you expect it to. We’re going to get their best because their best is on the mound.”

The series will have Sun Belt ramifications for WKU, which goes into the series No. 7 in league standings.

Only the league’s top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament, which WKU will host.

“I’m worried about getting ourselves up (in Sun Belt standings),” Myers said. “We’ve got a chance every weekend to take teams and put them below us.”