WKU splits doubleheader, sets up rubber match on Sunday

Kurt Carson

WKU split a doubleheader with Kent State on Saturday in front of 434 fans at Nick Denes Field.

The Toppers (3-7) won the first game of the doubleheader 5-2 but dropped the second game to Kent State (5-3) by a score of 13-3.

Kent State scored all 13 of their runs of the second game in the first six innings — summed up by a five-run third inning and two runs in each of the first, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Sophomore right-hander Justin Hageman started for WKU in game two Saturday and struggled from the beginning.

The Golden Flashes took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a two-RBI single by third baseman Nick Hamilton. Hamilton was one of two Kent State players to record four hits in the game, turning in a 4-for-5 effort with five RBIs.

Kent State exploded in the third inning on an RBI single by first baseman George Roberts and another two-RBI single from Hamilton.

The Golden Flashes tacked on two more runs in the inning on a sacrifice fly and an RBI groundout to take a 7-1 lead over the Toppers.

They continued building on their lead by scoring two runs each in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings with an RBI double from Hamilton, a two-RBI single by senior shortstop Jimmy Rider and a two-RBI single by senior left fielder Joe Koch to expand their lead to 13-2.

Rider also finished the game with four hits for Kent State while scoring three runs and driving in two runs.

The Golden Flashes accumulated a total of 17 hits, 13 of them being singles.

Hageman was pulled in the fourth inning having allowed nine earned runs on 10 hits in just 3 2/3 innings of work and was credited with the loss.

Head Coach Matt Myers said Hageman simply “didn’t have his best day.”

“The greatest asset for Justin is his competitiveness,” Myers said. “Today it just wasn’t him. He’s not as sharp as he needs to be but we’ll get that cleaned up, he knows that.”

Myers also said he thought the team came out too relaxed in game two after earning a victory in the first game.

“We kind of came out like, ‘hey we won a game’ and it was relax mode,'” Myers said. “Justin wasn’t sharp and they made him pay for his mistakes.

“I think it carried over on the offensive side. We didn’t have the same focus.”

Offensively the Toppers had seven hits with just one being an extra-base hit, an RBI double by senior right-fielder Ryan Hutchison in the bottom of the third inning.

Myers said his team can’t come out content just because they earned a win in the first meeting of the doubleheader.

“We can’t be satisfied,” Myers said. “We’re a proud program. You don’t just come here and beat us.”

It was a completely different story on the mound and at the plate for WKU in game one.

Seven effective innings from junior left-hander Tanner Perkins and a power display from junior catcher Ryan Huck led WKU to a 5-2 win in the first game of the doubleheader.

Huck was in the middle of both big offensive innings for the Toppers — a two-run fourth inning and a three-run seventh inning.

In the fourth inning with one out, Huck crushed a ball over the left field wall off of the Golden Flashes’ starter left-hander David Starn to put WKU on the board with a 1-0 lead over Kent State.

WKU tacked on another run in the inning to make it 2-0 after loading the bases when junior shortstop Steve Hodgins scored on a Kent State error.

WKU led 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning when Hutchison drew a walk and sophomore first baseman Scott Wilcox singled to put two runners on base against Kent State right-hander Dan Slavik with one out.

Huck came up big once again, this time with a three-run shot to left field that powered the Toppers to a 5-1 lead.

The two-home run game from Huck was the first of his career and the home runs were also his first of the season.

Huck said he was happy to have a productive day at the plate.

“It felt good,” Huck said. “We’ve been working on our approach. He hung a couple to me.”

Myers said the lineup, especially Huck, had a good approach at the plate against a tough starting pitcher in Starn, who came into the game with a 1.15 ERA in 15 2/3 innings.

“(Starn) doesn’t give you many opportunities so you have to be really disciplined in your approach,” Myers said. “He made a mistake on two pitches and (Huck) made him pay. He did a great job in a very timely situation.”

While Huck put runs on the board for WKU, Perkins kept the Golden Flashes mostly off the board.

Perkins was consistent throughout his seven innings of work in which he allowed just one run on five hits and had four strikeouts.

Perkins got out of a jam in the first inning unscathed and he said it allowed him to cruise from there.

“I think that was a lot of the game,” Perkins said. “It got my mind back in it and got me straight on the mound. I came back out the next inning and gave up zeros.”

Myers said he was very pleased with Perkins’ performance on the mound.

“Tanner was on a mission today,” Myers said. “He had to get us seven [innings]. He did everything I wanted him to.”

WKU will be back in action at 1 p.m. on Sunday in the rubber match against Kent State at Nick Denes Field.

Myers said he wants his team to realize that despite the way the second game turned out, they still have an opportunity for a home-series win.

“As disappointing as the second game was we still got the first game against a good team,” Myers said. “The goal is to win two out of three in every series. So tomorrow on our own field we have the chance to win a series against a very, very good team.”