WKU salvages last game of series against South Alabama

Hasani Grayson

The final score may have been closer than WKU was hoping, but the Lady Toppers got the win they desperately needed on Sunday against South Alabama.

WKU beat the Lady Jaguars 5-4 at the WKU Softball Complex after dropping both games in Saturday’s doubleheader.

Similar to the second game on Saturday, the Lady Toppers benefited from a strong pitching performance from their starter.

Junior pitcher Mallorie Sulaski, who was recovering from forearm tightness, got her first start since Feb. 18’s game against Arizona. She got off to a strong start in the circle as she went the first three innings without giving up a hit.

Sulaski, who has pitched just 16 innings this year but has a 1.75 ERA, said that she was just happy to pitch again.

“It’s definitely a great feeling just to be back on the mound and be able to almost pitch a whole game,” she said, adding that her arm felt good after pitching 6 1/3 innings.

The offense gave her run support in the bottom of the third. Junior outfielder Katrina Metoyer got an RBI on a single when the umpire called interference on Lady Jaguars first baseman Meghan Collins.

The play brought both managers out to argue and caused fans of both teams to yell at the umpires and each other.

WKU didn’t seem distracted by the screaming match in the stands, however, as it tacked on four more runs in the inning. Perry said that she tells her team to not feed into excitement in the crowd.

“We talk a lot about playing ball and not worrying about the fans,” she said. “When you feed off those things it could go your way but mostly it doesn’t. So we try to just focus on ourselves.”

The Lady Toppers got two RBIs from a double off the bat of senior outfielder Laura Smith, followed by junior catcher Karavin Dew and sophomore infielder Olivia Watkins knocking in a run each. It would be the only inning in which WKU would score.

Smith said the improvement in their offense was the result of mental changes.

“(Lady Jaguar pitcher Hannah Campbell) had eight strikeouts the other day and only had two today. We took her out of her game,” she said. “I think it was a complete mentality change.”

With the score at 5-1 heading into the the bottom of the seventh, WKU’s lead seemed in jeopardy. Perry went to the bullpen and put junior Kim Wagner in the circle to finish the game after Sulaski gave up two hits in the start of the inning.

Perry said that the move wasn’t due to ineffectiveness from Sulaski.

“I don’t think it was (Sulaski’s) fault. She was actually making good pitches,” Perry said.  “I felt like she was doing a good job we just had to make a change to throw the hitters in a different change of pace.”

Wagner would give up three hits in 2/3 of an inning. South Alabama scored three runs that inning with two of the runs charged to Sulaski’s ERA. But a dramatic inning would end calmly as Wagner induced a grounder to end the game, leaving the tying run stranded at second to squeeze out the win.

WKU’s next game will be at 7 p.m. on Wednesday against Kentucky at the WKU Softball Complex.

“We’re just doing everything they can to keep them from thinking too much but at the same time keeping our fundamentals sharp,” Perry said.