Edelen, offense clinch series with 7-5 win over ULM

Brad Stephens

Brian Edelen has had his share of solid Sunday performances go for naught thanks to bullpen collapses.

But Sunday against Louisiana-Monroe, it was Edelen coming out of the bullpen and leading WKU (27-17, 12-9 Sun Belt Conference) to a 7-5 comeback win in front of 998 at Warhawk Field.

Edelen (4-1) pitched the game’s last 5 and 2/3 innings, giving up just two hits and one run.

The senior right-hander’s long relief appearance came one night after earning his first save of the year Saturday in an 8-5 win over ULM.

“I can’t say enough about Brian Edelen’s performance this weekend,” WKU Head Coach Chris Finwood told WKU’s Big Red Radio following the game. “He was just phenomenal doing what he did last night. Then he went out there today running on fumes and just wanted to keep going back out.

“I’m just so proud of him, what a great performance.”

Edelen’s services were needed earlier Sunday than Finwood would have liked.

Junior right-hander Phil Wetherell got the start but lasted just three innings after giving up a three-run Warhawk third.

Two of the three runs were unearned, thanks to a throwing error from Wetherell on center fielder Shane Ardoin’s sacrifice bunt attempt.

Second baseman Caleb Clowers and first baseman Joey Rapp both had subsequent RBI singles.

That allowed ULM to take a 3-1 lead after the Toppers had jumped in front in the top of the inning thanks to a single from senior catcher Matt Rice.

Freshman right-hander Brian Doering replaced Wetherell in the fourth, lasting just long enough to give up a single, walk, balk and sacrifice fly.

With one out in the fourth and WKU trailing 4-1, Finwood called upon Edelen.

He got the last two outs of the fourth, but gave up a solo home run to Rapp that pushed the ULM lead to 5-1.

Edelen then gave up a single and a walk but struck out third baseman Judd Edwards to end the threat.

He allowed just one more Warhawk baserunner the rest of the game.

WKU began its comeback when junior right fielder Ryan Hutchison reached on a throwing error from Edwards with one out in the sixth.

Junior shortstop Logan Robbins moved Hutchison to third with a double down the left-field line.

After sophomore first baseman Ryan Huck lined out for the second out, junior second baseman Ivan Hartle knocked a two-RBI single through the right side, cutting the ULM lead to 5-3.

The Warhawks’ lead went to 5-4 when Hartle scored on Edwards’ second throwing error of the inning.

The Toppers rallied again in the eighth, as Huck hit a 0-1 James Jones offering over the left-field wall to tie the game at 5-5.

Hartle then singled and was moved to second thanks to a sacrifice bunt from junior third baseman Casey Dykes.

Hartle advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of junior left fielder Jared Andreoli.

Hutchison hit a ninth-inning sacrifice fly that scored junior center fielder Kes Carter, making the score the decisive mark of 7-5.

“The balance of our lineup was a lot better today,” Finwood said. “Wilcox had good at-bats in that two-hole, and guys up and down the lineup had some big hits for us.”

Finwood said the comeback validated his decision to take Edelen from his Sunday starting role and instead use him from the bullpen.

“We talked that if we could just hang in there for the first three or four innings and then bring Brian in, we’d have a better chance than him starting and us having nobody to finish,” Finwood said. “Rarely the coaching plans work out the way you hope they do, and today was one of those times.”

With the win and Troy’s 7-1 loss to Florida Atlantic, WKU has cut its deficit in Sun Belt standings to three games.

The Toppers remain a game out of a three-way, second-place tie that includes Louisiana-Lafayette, Florida International and FAU.

WKU next takes the field Tuesday at 2 p.m. in Richmond to play in-state rival Eastern Kentucky.