Bullpen troubles, stranded runners haunt WKU in 8-2 loss to UALR

Brad Stephens

Familiar foes haunted WKU in an 8-2 Saturday road loss to Arkansas-Little Rock.

The Toppers, who have had troubles hitting with runners in scoring position this season, stranded seven runners during the first three innings and left 12 on base throughout the course of the game.

Then with the game tied at two in the seventh inning, junior reliever Ross Hammonds gave up four runs.

He was relieved by sophomore Taylor Haydel, who went on to surrender two more Trojan runs in the eighth.

WKU (17-10, 6-2 Sun Belt Conference) has suffered from an inconsistent bullpen all season, and Head Coach Chris Finwood said his bullpen “just wasn’t good enough” Saturday.

“Ross didn’t have it today, and he blew up on us,” Finwood told WKU’s Big Red Radio following the game. “He’s not pitching with the same amount of confidence he did earlier in the year, and he’s got to get it back.”

The bullpen’s performance wasted another strong effort from freshman right-hander Justin Hageman.

Hageman pitched six innings, giving up two earned runs, nine hits and a walk, and striking out seven.

Finwood said after the game that he regretted the decision to turn to the bullpen in the seventh.

“(Hageman) is going to be just outstanding for us,” Finwood said. “I love how he didn’t want to come out of the game, and I told him that next time the game was 2-2 going into the seventh that he’d be back out there. So that one is on me.”

Both WKU RBIs came off the bat of right fielder Ryan Hutchison.

The junior drove in senior catcher Matt Rice on a first-inning single to give the Toppers an early 1-0 lead, then hit a solo home run in the fifth that tied the game at two.

But Finwood said after the game that his team left too many men on base Saturday to win.

“Unfortunately we just couldn’t get any big hits today,” Finwood said. “That’s just baseball. We got a bunch of them last night (in a 14-3 WKU win), but didn’t get any of them today.

Trojan left-handed reliever Ryan Juris picked up the win for UALR.

He pitched four innings, giving up three walks but no hits or runs, and struck out three.

Meanwhile, Hammonds picked up the loss in his first decision of the year. His ERA rose from 3.63 to 4.30 after getting charged for two earned runs in the seventh.

Other than Hutchison, junior left fielder Jared Andreoli had the best day at the plate for WKU.

Andreoli went 3-for-4 with a walk and raised his batting average to a team-high .387.

UALR was led offensively by catcher Nick Roundtree, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored, and shortstop Greg Garcia, who went 3-for-5 with two runs.

The Toppers and Trojans will play the rubber match of their three game series Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

Senior right-hander Brian Edelen will pitch for WKU. The Fisherville native is 3-0 on the season with a 3.86 ERA in five starts.

Edelen will oppose Trojan right-hander Calvin Drinnen. Drinnen is 2-2 with a 4.61 ERA in five starts.

“The guys’ goal is to win the series, and we have a chance to do that tomorrow,” Finwood said. “I told the guys I’m excited to get out here tomorrow and do that.”