WKU strands 12 runners in 6-5 loss to Belmont

Senior second baseman Ivan Hartle chases after a foul ball in the third inning on Tuesday night against Belmont at Nick Denes Field.

Jordan Wells

The headlining theme for WKU throughout its early season has been missed opportunities, especially in potentially key moments.

The trend continued on Tuesday night for the Toppers, as WKU (8-12) left 12 runners stranded on-base in a 6-5 loss to the Belmont Bruins (14-8) at Nick Denes Field.

“The left on-base has been an Achilles’ Heel for us all year,” Head Coach Matt Myers said. “But walking the leadoff guy really hurt us tonight too.”

The Bruins scored in the first, fourth, and fifth innings, with WKU pitching an opening inning walk to Belmont’s leadoff hitter each time.

The biggest inning for the Bruins came in the top of the fifth, which started by Belmont runners advancing to first and third base with no outs, via two walks from freshman pitcher Brennan Pearson and a throwing error by freshman catcher Ryan Messex.

Belmont went on to score three runs that inning to go up 6-2, after an RBI single from Bruins right fielder Drew Turner, a balk call on Pearson, and a sacrifice fly to center field by Bruins left fielder William Dodd.

“If we just take care of that (walking the leadoff), and take care of the baseball, we probably still win that game, even with the guys left on-base.” Myers said.

WKU tried to answer in the bottom of the fifth, loading the bases with only one out, after a single from sophomore first baseman Scott Wilcox in between Jared Andreoli and Ryan Hutchison walks.

But WKU only managed one run, as an RBI single from junior left fielder Adam Lavelle was followed by two strikeouts from sophomore designated hitter Justin Hageman and Messex, leaving three runners stranded in the process.

More missed opportunities came In the sixth inning, when senior third baseman Casey Dykes led off the inning with a single to right field.

Junior shortstop Steven Hodgins was next to advance, via a hit by pitch, followed by an Ivan Hartle bunt single.

The Toppers had the bases loaded again, this time with zero outs on the board.

Two runs scored off a double to left-center field by Andreoli, but on that same play Hartle was thrown out at third base.

After a throwing error by Bruins second baseman Zac Mitchell, WKU had the lead trimmed down to 6-5, with one out and Andreoli on third base representing the tying run.

But the Toppers ended the sixth in the same fashion as they ended the fifth, with two strikeouts, this time from Hutchison and Lavelle.

“We hung in there and battled back,” Hartle said. “But we just missed out on a couple of those opportunities.”

Pearson (0-1) took the loss for WKU, while Belmont pitcher Josh Davis improved to 4-1 overall.

The Toppers find themselves in the middle of an eight games in 10 days stretch, something Myers said WKU will have to grind out one day at a time.

“When you’re young on the mound and thin, you can’t look beyond the next day.” he said. “Whether we’ve got eight games in 10 days, or eight games in 20, this team can’t afford to look past today.”

WKU travels next to Austin Peay for a 6 p.m. Wednesday game, followed by a weekend home series with Florida International.

“We just have to keep working hard, and the wins can come,” Hartle said. “We’re not the only team with a long stretch (of games).”