Rice hopes to break records against Kentucky tonight

Sophomore pitcher Andrew Zimmerman pitches during WKU’s second game against Arkansas State on Saturday. The Toppers defeated ASU 13-2.

Brad Stephens

Matt Rice has a chance to add two big milestones to his legendary Topper career tonight.

The senior catcher is tied for first place on the all-time WKU hits list with 281 and is second in career RBIs with 207, just one short of the record.

Rice will have a chance to break both records tonight at Bowling Green Ballpark in the Toppers’ highly anticipated 6 p.m. matchup with Kentucky.

Last year WKU dismantled the Wildcats, 24-8, in front of 6,183 fans at the ballpark.

WKU Head Coach Chris Finwood said that if anyone deserved to get the records in front of a big crowd, it’s Rice.

“That’d be awful neat to stop the game and give him that ball and have everybody give him a standing ovation,” Finwood said. “He’s been such a special, special player for us, and I really feel privileged to have had the chance to coach him.”

If Rice has a repeat of his performance in the 24-8 game last season, then he’ll easily surpass both records tonight.

Rice went 5-for-6 with three RBIs against the Wildcats a year ago.

He said the records are something he tries to keep off his mind.

“I try not to think about it a lot,” Rice said. “But now that it’s so close, the only thing I can think about is that I’d rather do it at home.”

Rice won’t be the only Topper catcher with a chance at history tonight.

Former WKU catcher Jack Glasser will see his No. 14 jersey retired before the game.

He was an All-Ohio Valley Conference Selection from 1971-1973 and had a career .326 batting average.

Glasser, a local family practitioner, will be the first player in WKU baseball history to see his number officially retired by the program.

“Dr. Glasser means everything to this program,” Finwood said. “He’s such an icon in the city of Bowling Green and such a special guy. I certainly haven’t been here that long, but I can’t think of anyone that’s more deserving of being our first baseball player to have their number retired.” 

 While history will be the theme of the evening, what’s not lost to the players is the rivalry between the two schools.

WKU has defeated Kentucky in their last three meetings, something that junior left fielder Jared Andreoli said is fine with him.

“Most people are Kentucky fans, but I personally hate Kentucky,” Andreoli said. “So I think everyone just wants to go out there and prove that Western Kentucky can hang with UK.”

The Toppers come into tonight with some solid momentum after winning four of their last five games, most recently taking the first two of a three-game Sun Belt series against Arkansas State.

WKU now has a 24-13 record in 2011, compared to Kentucky’s 17-20 record for the season.

The Wildcats have especially struggled in Southeastern Conference play, going 2-13 in the SEC.

But Finwood said he thinks Kentucky will still be a tough opponent.

“We’ve beaten them three in a row, and they know that,” Finwood said. “So they’ll be fired up to play there.”