WKU recovers from ‘embarrassing’ loss

Kurt Carson

The Toppers exited the dugout quickly and with their heads down on Wednesday night after a 7-2 loss to Evansville.

WKU’s play was described as “embarrassing” by Head Coach Matt Myers after a game in which the team was charged with four errors.

That loss came just three days after the Toppers won their first weekend series of the season against Kent State, a team Myers said could be the best opponent they play all year.

But this weekend, WKU bounced back to win two of three games, including its first back-to-back wins,  at Nick Denes Field against Western Illinois in its final non-conference weekend series.

Junior left-hander Tim Bado said it was “huge” to get another series victory.

“We’re starting to put it together,” Bado said.

WKU notched its first two wins with the help of a couple of relievers who had been struggling as of late — sophomore left-hander Austin Clay and freshman left-hander Ian Tompkins.

Junior left-hander Tanner Perkins was pulled from Friday’s matchup with forearm tightness after just 2 1/3 innings.

The Toppers relied on Clay to step up and provide solid long-relief from the bullpen. He pitched 3 2/3 innings while allowing no runs on one hit and making the way for a 7-2 WKU win.

On Saturday, WKU trailed 4-0 after starting sophomore right-hander Justin Hageman stepped off the mound after five innings.

Tompkins came in and held the Leathernecks scoreless for three straight innings while the bats came to life on the way to a 9-4 victory.

He came in to the game struggling with command, having walked 10 batters in just 12 2/3 innings. However, he issued no walks on Saturday.

Tompkins said it was big for him to come out in control.

“I’ve had a few rough innings this season and they were due to lack of confidence,” Tompkins said. “But I think I’ve found my confidence to where I can go in and produce right off the bat instead of having to settle in after a few wild pitches or walks.”

Clay and Tompkins combined to throw 6 2/3 innings while allowing no runs on two hits.

Even though it wasn’t exactly what he expected, Myers said he was pleased to see both Clay and Tompkins step up.

“Austin Clay came in to adversity and competed his fanny off for us,” Myers said. “Tompkins stepped up big because he took all the momentum out of their dugout and put it in ours.”

After an 11-1 loss on Sunday in the series finale, Myers said the series win was nice but there’s still work to be done.

“It’s very important to get that,” Myers said. “But we’ve got to play better if we have any chance in the Sun Belt.”

WKU plays Butler at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Nick Denes Field before opening Sun Belt Conference play on Friday in Murfreesboro, Tenn., against Middle Tennessee State.