Pitching, timely hitting sends WKU past Belmont

Lady Topper teammates congratulate freshman Preslie Cruce after hitting a home run. Cruce’s sixth-inning home run was the first run scored of the game. WKU defeated Belmont 3-0.

Hasani Grayson

NASHVILLE — WKU took its strong pitching on the road on Wednesday, notching its third shutout win in a row.

WKU (24-15-1 Sun Belt Conference) beat Belmont (8-27) 3-0 in a game in which Lady Topper pitching continued a streak of 22 straight innings without giving up a run.

The first five innings were quiet for both teams. WKU had just one hit, coming from junior outfielder Kelsie Mattox, who singled in the first and was later called out at second on a steal attempt.

Wagner, despite being wild at times, had given up just one hit and had five strikeouts with one walk and two hit batters after five innings of work.

Freshman infielder Preslie Cruce would back up Wagner’s performance in the circle by breaking the scoreless tie with a sixth-inning solo home run to left-center. It was her third home run in the last six games.

“I’ve just been working really hard in practice and just focusing on the center of the ball,” Cruce said. “I’ve been letting the ball get deep, even letting the quicker pitches, letting those get deep.”

Head Coach Tyra Perry said Cruce’s home run was made more impressive by the fact that the wind was knocking down a lot of balls hit in the air.

“Preslie’s been doing great, she’s been working hard everyday no matter what,” Perry said. “She listens to whatever we’re saying and I’m always happy when something good happens for a kid like that.”

Sophomore infielder Olivia Watkins came up to bat with the runners on second and third in the seventh and singled up the middle to score two more runs and bring the score to 3-0.

Junior Brittanie Albrght pitched a clean top of the seventh to get her first save of the season, giving WKU the 3-0 victory.

Albright has had her time in the circle limited as she worked through some mechanical and confidence issues, but said she felt comfortable getting some in game action again.

“I felt good and confident, I’ve been working on that a lot,” she said. “That’s what I’ve been struggling on this whole season and I’ve just been training that, listening to positive things.”

Albright had a strikeout in her inning-long appearance and didn’t surrender any hits on her way to closing the door for the Lady Toppers.

Wagner moved to 10-4 on the season and got her ERA down to 2.40.

In a coaches’ decision, she was not made available for comment to the Herald following the game because of comments she made in an April 6 Herald article in which she said fatigue from a practice drill affected her ability to take a test.

Perry said that she was pleased with how Wagner, and the rest of the team has done since a winless series on March 31 and April 1 against North Texas, but is still looking for her team to loosen up a bit.

“I think we have so many little things that we have to work on that we have to work on everyone’s kind of focused on that,” she said. “But hopefully in the next couple of days, next couple of games, we’ll get to a point where we can just play.”

The Lady Toppers will be back at home this weekend after the one-game road trip and will play conference opponent Florida International.

First pitch for a Saturday doubleheader is scheduled for 1 p.m.