Seven WIU errors send Toppers to win

Kurt Carson

WKU received a little extra help against Western Illinois on Friday at Nick Denes Field.

The Leathernecks committed seven errors, two of which came in a five-run Topper eighth inning.

That inning allowed WKU (5-8) to cruise to a 7-2 win over Western Illinois (4-7) in the opener of its last non-conference weekend series.

Head Coach Matt Myers said it was key for his team to take advantage of the opportunities given to them.

“We did there in the eighth and I was proud of the guys,” Myers said.

WKU loaded the bases in the eighth with one out on a single, a fielder’s choice and a walk, bringing up senior left-fielder Jared Andreoli. Andreoli drew a walk to score a run and extended the Toppers’ lead to 3-1.

Junior pinch-hitter Adam Lavelle then singled on a line drive to left field that scored two runs and put WKU up 5-1.

Senior second baseman Ivan Hartle then singled up the middle to plate another run for the Toppers.

Western Illinois catcher Manny Reyes attempted to pick off Lavelle, who was standing at second base, but the ball went over the head of second baseman Jameson Henning and rolled under the glove of center-fielder Dan Dispensa.  

Reyes and Dispensa were each charged with errors on the play that allowed Lavelle to score from second and gave WKU a 7-1 lead.

Hartle said it was big for the team to take advantage of what Western Illinois was handing them and to manufacture those runs.

“We had quite a few opportunities throughout the game and let them slip away but it was good to get runs,” Hartle said. “It put more pressure on them.”

However, there was a significant moment of concern for the Toppers on Friday.

Junior left-hander Tanner Perkins started for WKU but was pulled from the game after just 2 1/3 innings with forearm tightness.

Myers said he thinks Perkins will be “OK” and that he didn’t want to risk further injury, especially with Sun Belt Conference play starting on March 16.

While Perkins was in the game, he gave up a leadoff home run to third baseman Matt Igara which gave Western Illinois a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

However, the Toppers answered right back in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI single by sophomore first baseman Scott Wilcox.

With Perkins sidelined the Toppers sent sophomore left-hander Austin Clay to the mound.

The former Daviess County High School standout pitched 3 2/3 shutout innings and allowed just one hit while recording three strikeouts.

Clay said his main focus was to bridge the gap between Perkins and WKU’s late-game relievers.

“We have two guys at the back of the bullpen that, I knew if I got it to them, they’re pretty lights out,” Clay said. “That was pretty much my main focus.”

Myers said Clay’s ability to get them to the seventh inning after Perkins’ injury was “huge.”

“You don’t want to get in the bullpen and throw two or three arms to get to the sixth inning,” Myers said. “He did a great job. You couldn’t ask him to do anything more and I was very proud.”

Clay handed the ball off to senior right-hander Ross Hammonds for the seventh inning.

Hammonds, who came into Friday with a 3.55 ERA, retired all six batters he faced in his two innings of work, with three of them going down on strikes.

Clay and Hammonds combined for 5 2/3 innings of relief that held WKU’s lead at 2-1 until the offense exploded for five runs in the bottom of the eighth.

The Leathernecks threatened in the top of the ninth inning with WKU junior right-hander Colton Satterlee on the mound.

Satterlee gave up a leadoff double to right-fielder Ryan Cowhey, who eventually scored on an RBI single by pinch-hitter Steve Kedroski, cutting the Toppers’ lead to 7-2.

However after issuing a walk that loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the on-deck circle, Satterlee induced a groundout to end the game and hold on for the victory for WKU.

Myers said although his team needed to “clean up the ninth inning” it was still good to get a victory.

“It’s nice to get Friday in a series because now you got a chance to win one of the next two and you get your series win,” Myers said.

WKU will look to earn the series win when they face Western Illinois in game two at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Nick Denes Field.

Sophomore right-hander Justin Hageman will be on the mound for the Toppers while right-hander Dustin Hunter will start for the Leathernecks.