WKU can’t maintain leads, falls to Tennessee in 13 innings

Kurt Carson

WKU’s matchup with Tennessee on Tuesday was a game full of lead changes that went all the way to the 13th inning at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.

But it was Tennessee (4-0) who held the last lead over WKU (1-3), handing the Toppers an 8-7 defeat in the 4 hour, 48-minute matchup.

With the game tied 7-7, the Volunteers led off the 13th inning with a single from junior third baseman Zach Luther who advanced to third base on an error.

With one out, senior first baseman Davis Morgan sent a ball into right field, Luther tagged up and WKU senior right fielder Ryan Hutchison’s throw home was too late.

WKU got off to a good start by scoring a run in each of the first two innings.

Senior third baseman Casey Dykes hit a solo home run that put the Toppers up 2-0 in the second inning. The home run was Dykes’ first of the season and the ninth of his four-year career at WKU.

However the Toppers’ starter, sophomore right-hander GJ Strauss, allowed three runs to cross the plate for the Volunteers in the bottom half of the second inning.

Strauss finished his day having allowed three runs on three hits in just three innings of work.

Tennessee tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning on a solo home run from junior first baseman Drew Steckenrider and a wild pitch, giving the Volunteers a 5-2 lead.

WKU saw its bats come to life in a four-run seventh inning that gave the Toppers a 6-5 lead. The inning began with a leadoff home run from sophomore designated hitter Jordan Cessna.

WKU held that lead until the bottom of the ninth inning when sophomore right-hander Justin Hageman took over on the mound, making his first pitching appearance of the season after having issues with elbow tendonitis.

With runners on the corners and one out, the Toppers thought they’d tagged the runner on first base in a rundown, recording the second out of the inning.

However, in a call which was argued by Head Coach Matt Myers, the umpires called the runner safe when he returned to first base.

Hageman proceeded to walk the bases loaded, gave up a sacrifice fly that tied the game at 6-6 and sent the game into extra innings. The out on the sacrifice fly would have been the third and final out if the earlier call would’ve gone WKU’s way.

The ensuing extra innings were quiet until the Toppers found a way to break through in the top of the 12th inning.

With the bases loaded, junior shortstop Steve Hodgins drew a two-out walk to plate a run and give WKU a 7-6 lead.

Tennessee answered right back in the bottom half of the 12th inning by adding a run of their own to tie it up, which made way for the walk-off victory in the 13th inning.

Junior right-hander Taylor Haydel pitched the last part of the game for WKU, going three-and-two-thirds innings for the Toppers.

Haydel gave up a leadoff single which was eventually the winning run and was credited with the loss.

Neither Myers nor players were made available to the Herald for comment following Tuesday’s game.

WKU will look to get back on track as it heads back home to host a series this weekend with Southern Illinois beginning at 3 p.m. on Friday at Nick Denes Field.