Toppers split doubleheader, take nightcap to earn first win

WKU junior infielder Adam Lavelle slides into third base before being called out during the second game of a doubleheader Saturday against Toledo at Nick Denes Field. WKU won 9-3.

Kurt Carson

WKU (1-2) avoided a series sweep at the hands of Toledo (2-1) by winning the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader after losing the first game.

The Toppers managed to salvage Game 3 of the series by defeating the Toledo Rockets 9-3 in front of 620 fans at Nick Denes Field, after losing the first game on Saturday 7-6.

After missing out on many scoring opportunities in the first two games of the series, WKU was able to capitalize on them in the second game of the doubleheader.

Head Coach Matt Myers said that’s what he had been hoping to see from his team all weekend.

“I told the guys that was what I wanted to see from day one,” Myers said. “It took a couple of games to get the jitters out but we played loose, we executed better, you saw the way we ran the bases and we played free. That’s what I wanted the guys to do — to turn it loose.”

WKU scored at least one run in each of their last four innings to help secure their first victory of the season.

With Toledo inching back into the game in the fifth inning, senior second baseman Ivan Hartle led off the bottom half of the inning with a double. He eventually came around to score on an RBI single from junior first baseman Ryan Huck to give WKU a 4-2 lead.

Toledo answered in the top of the sixth inning with back-to-back doubles that made it a one-run game once again.

However, the Toppers weren’t done tacking on runs.

In the bottom of the sixth inning senior centerfielder Jared Andreoli recorded his second hit of the game, scoring junior catcher Devin Kelly to extend WKU’s lead to 5-3.

Senior right-hander Ross Hammonds pitched the seventh and eighth innings for WKU and came up big. He allowed no hits or walks to Toledo in his two innings of work and recorded two strikeouts.

Myers said that’s what he expects to see from Hammonds rather than the two runs he gave up in Friday night’s game, a 5-2 Opening Day loss.

“Tonight he didn’t miss a spot and when he does that the game goes really faster at the end and makes it tough,” Myers said. “That was big because he held them to zeros when it was close.”

Those “zeros” also allowed WKU some breathing room while the offense continued to add on runs.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, sophomore designated hitter Scott Wilcox launched a leadoff home run over the right-field fence to give the Toppers a 6-3 lead. It was WKU’s first home run of the season and Wilcox’s first of his career.

Junior left fielder Adam Lavelle added another run in the seventh inning with his RBI double.

WKU added on two more runs in the eighth inning due to poor defense by Toledo, which made the score 9-3.

The Toppers finally saw the offensive production it had hoped for in the first two games.

Andreoli credited the success of the offense to the way the team approached it coming off two lackluster offensive performances.

“In baseball every day is a new day and every at bat is a new at bat,” Andreoli said. “I think that’s how the whole team approached it. People have been hitting the ball hard the past couple of games but finally this game they started to fall for us.”

Junior right-hander Taylor Haydel came in to pitch for the ninth inning and was able to close it out for the Toppers.

Freshman left-hander Ian Tompkins, a Louisville St. Xavier High School product, earned the win in his first career start for WKU. He was able to go five innings, allowing two runs on four hits.

Tompkins said overall he was happy with the way his first career start went.

“I was trying to get out there and throw strikes,” Tompkins said. “It was a little shaky in the first inning. I couldn’t really find it but I switched over to the stretch and got the fastball working and all the other pitches started coming.”

Tompkins’ “shaky” start included issuing walks to four of the first six batters he faced.

Myers said it’s simply something the team has come to accept and that they’ve already adjusted to it.

“Get used to Ian doing that,” Myers said. “It’s no surprise and he knows it. But we’ve gotten used to playing behind him and that’s a tough thing to do when you’ve got a guy that does that.

“Our guys have learned. We know that’s him and we know he’s going to be special. But we we’re just patient and he settled down and did great.”

Tompkins said he switched to pitching from the stretch in the second inning and stuck with it because he liked the way it was going.

“I switched over to the stretch for the rest of the game,” Tompkins said. “I lifted my leg a little higher to get the same momentum I would out of the windup, it started to work really well and I was extremely confident in all my pitches. That was the key.”

He said the offensive production that he got was also huge in giving him confidence.

“It was nice to have some run support,” Tompkins said. “It was pretty relieving to know I had some runs behind me.”

Sophomore left-hander Austin Clay started the first game of the doubleheader and didn’t get the kind of run support that Tompkins got in the nightcap.

The Toppers did make an attempt at a comeback in the latter part of the game, scoring four of their six runs in the last three innings after Clay had already exited the game.

Trailing 7-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, Wilcox hit a leadoff double to deep right field.

Senior third baseman Casey Dykes and Andreoli came through with singles that produced a run apiece and cut Toledo’s lead to 7-6.

However Hartle couldn’t come through and struck out swinging with the tying run standing at third base.

Clay put the Toppers in an early hole by allowing three first-inning runs to cross the plate.

However he settled down after that and shut out the Rockets over his next five innings.

Myers said he thought Clay did a good job and came out of the first inning nicely.

“That first inning they found a hole with every small groundball they could but that kid gave us a chance and competed his rear-end off,” Myers said. “I was very happy with him.”

WKU only scored two runs over the first six innings of the game and Clay, who left the game down 3-2, was saddled with the loss.

Toledo tacked on three more runs in the top of the seventh inning and made it too much for WKU’s attempted comeback to overcome.

Myers said the offense simply missed out on too many opportunities.

“We had some key moments when that first game could’ve really swung in our direction the way Austin had settled down,” Myers said.

However, WKU did split the doubleheader and was able to get a victory during their opening series.

The Toppers will look to continue their momentum when they take on Tennessee at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.