Robbins delivers game winner as WKU beats MTSU in season finale

Cole Claybourn

Logan Robbins delivered his own version of payback to Middle Tennessee on Saturday.

It came in response to MTSU’s Will Skinner, who beat WKU with a walk-off grand slam on Friday night.

On Saturday, Robbins took a two-out pitch from Paul Mittura over the center-field wall for a three-run home run, giving WKU (32-22, 17-13 Sun Belt Conference) an 8-6 win over MTSU (18-37, 9-21 Sun Belt) in the final game of the regular season.

“I just wanted to step up there in a big situation and get a big hit for the guys,” Robbins told WKU’s Big Red Radio. “Everybody else was hitting, so I felt like I needed to step up and do the same.”

It was just Robbins’ third home run of the season and his first since a March 9 game against Mississippi.

It proved to be the difference in a game that became an inning-by-inning, see-saw battle.

WKU scored one run in four of the first five innings. Each time the Toppers did so, MTSU answered with one of their own.

Senior catcher Matt Rice led off the third with a solo home run, but MTSU’s Ryan Stephens matched it in the bottom half with a solo home run of his own.

An RBI double by Robbins in the fifth inning was countered by a solo home run from MTSU’s Davis Pearce in the bottom half.

It wasn’t until the sixth inning that WKU held the Blue Raiders scoreless for the first time since the second inning. MTSU couldn’t match a solo home run by junior outfielder Kes Carter.

But the Blue Raiders roughed up reliever Brian Edelen for two runs in the eighth inning and nearly escaped with the victory.

With sophomore infielder Blake Crabtree pinch running for junior outfielder Ryan Hutchison, Finwood called for a hit-and-run, which successfully prevented a double play. Junior third baseman Casey Dykes was then hit by a pitch.

That left it for Robbins for the eventual game-winner.

“Just a big hit by Logan at a great time,” Head Coach Chris Finwood said. “We talk about just getting those one-run innings, and it was that three-run inning that was the difference today.”

The win means WKU will earn either a No. 4 or 5 seed in this week’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Monroe, La., depending on the result of Saturday’s game between Florida Atlantic and Florida International.

Either way, the Toppers play FAU in the first round.

But with the Sun Belt Tournament’s new round-robin pool play format, seeding determines what day of the week WKU could potentially play.

Even though a No. 4 or No. 5 seed would mean a pool play matchup against the No. 1 seed, Finwood said that was the route he wanted to see WKU get.  

“I just didn’t want to have Wednesday off. I don’t think that’s the best thing for our pitching staff,” he said. “We wanted to play Wednesday and have a break during the tournament. I think that helps us.”

A loss on Saturday could’ve potentially bumped WKU to a No. 6 seed, which would have given them Wednesday off and forced them to play every day the rest of the tournament after that.

Now the Toppers will have a break on either Friday or Saturday should they advance to Sunday’s championship game.

But in the meantime, Finwood said the Toppers will enjoy and build off Saturday’s win.

“That’s a great way to get some momentum heading into the conference tournament,” he said. “Couldn’t ask for a better ending to the regular season.”