Bado an ‘anchor’ in the Topper rotation

Junior starting pitcher Tim Bado pitches during WKU’s 11-1 loss to Western Illinois Sunday at Nick Denes Field.

Kurt Carson

It hasn’t been easy to find consistency in WKU’s starting rotation this season.

Junior left-hander Tanner Perkins’ recent injury and sophomore right-hander Justin Hageman’s early season struggles, after beginning the year injured, has left the rotation a bit out of sync.

But junior left-hander Tim Bado has been the one consistent strong point on the mound for the Toppers.

Bado, a transfer from Crowder Junior College, has posted a 2.45 ERA in three starts and is averaging seven strikeouts per game — the lowest ERA and highest strikeout average of any WKU starter this year.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the Toppers’ 1-2 punch in Perkins and Hageman, Head Coach Matt Myers said Bado has been a needed anchor while filling the role of WKU’s Sunday starter.

“Our Sunday guy is pitching like a No. 1, which gives a lot of confidence to the team,” Myers said. “With what Tim’s been able to do on the back-end has really anchored us down and let us know we’re OK.”

Myers said it’s no surprise that Bado is pitching like a No. 1 since that was his role at Crowder Junior College.

“In his mind he is a No. 1,” Myers said. “They don’t see it as Saturday, Sunday starts. They see it as their opportunity to go win that day. That’s how Tim does it.”

Bado said he simply sees his Sunday role as his opportunity to win a game.

“I kind of have a chip on my shoulder when I go out there because I’ve always been a No. 1 type guy,” Bado said. “I just challenge myself to pitch like Tanner and Justin always have.”

Bado began the year with an injury that forced him to miss the opening weekend series against Toledo.

After making his debut against Southern Illinois on Feb. 26, Bado recorded his most effective outing the following weekend against Kent State.

With the series on the line, he allowed one earned run on six hits over 8 1/3 innings while issuing no walks and recording eight strikeouts in a 2-1 victory. The victory earned Bado his first win as a Topper and clinched WKU’s first series win of the season.

Bado said the performance against Kent State gave him a huge confidence boost and allowed him to embrace a leadership role in the clubhouse.

“I’ve always tried to be a leader on teams and I felt like I had to earn the respect from the guys before I could do that,” Bado said. “I really felt like I gained some respect after that start.”

Senior right-hander Ross Hammonds said Bado has had no problem earning respect and fitting in with the team in his first year at WKU.

“He’s a great guy,” Hammonds said. “Everybody gets along with him. That’s what it takes to have a good locker room like we do and he just really fits in well.”

Myers said even though he knew Bado was good coming out of junior college, he didn’t know how good.

“It’s funny because when we signed Tim I knew he had the chance to be a weekend starter,” Myers said. “But I thought he also might be a Tuesday starter or bullpen guy for us.

“He’s gotten the opportunity to get his chances and it’s worked out great for him because he’s shown that he’s as good as anybody.”

WKU will play its first Sun Belt Conference series of the season this weekend in Murfreesboro, Tenn., against league rival Middle Tennessee State.

First pitch for the series opener is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, and Bado’s next outing will be at 1 p.m. on Sunday in the series finale.

Myers said he sees more solid performances in Bado’s future.

“He’s a confident individual and he knows why he’s playing,” Myers said. “That’s why he’s successful.”