Lady Tops get first conference sweep of the year over ULM

Nick Bratcher

The Lady Toppers gained their first sweep of the season in the Sun Belt Conference in Saturday’s series finale against Louisiana-Monroe.

Coming into Saturday, WKU (26-22, 7-11 Sun Belt) had never lost at home against ULM and continued that streak, winning 7-6.

Freshman second baseman Kelsie Mattox said the extra motivation to get the sweep pushed the team to win.

“We came out to play because we hadn’t swept anyone yet,” she said.

The weekend’s wins have lifted the Lady Toppers to seventh place in the Sun Belt Conference, ahead of Middle Tennessee and North Texas.

Brittanie Albright got the unusual start on Saturday after a commanding performance Friday, in which she allowed just one earned run against ULM.

Sophomore Mallorie Sulaski, WKU’s No. 1 pitcher and usual third-game starter on weekends, started at first base instead.

Head Coach Tyra Perry said she picked the day’s lineup based off who she thought would give the most effort at each position.

“Today we went with the lineup we thought would compete,” she said. “We went with not necessarily who we thought was the most talented, but we went with who we knew would fight.”

Sophomore left fielder Ciara Garcia got things started in the first inning for the Lady Toppers, hitting a solo home run over the right-field fence to give WKU the lead, 1-0.

But ULM answered with three runs in the top of the second inning on an RBI bunt from Katie Girardi and a couple of errant throws from Albright to gain the lead, 3-1.

The Lady Toppers regained the lead, 6-3, in the bottom of the second inning with a flurry of hits, including a two-RBI triple from Mattox and an RBI triple from Garcia.

ULM earned a run in the top of the third on an RBI single from Janel Salanoa and then loaded the bases with no outs, but Sulaski came in to relieve Albright and grabbed three straight outs to retain the lead for WKU, 6-4.

The teams traded runs in the fifth and sixth innings as sophomore center fielder Katrina Metoyer hit an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth, and ULM’s Riojas hit an RBI single in the top of the sixth to bring WKU’s lead to 7-5.

For the second day in a row, Briana Love, the preseason Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, hit a seventh-inning home run to bring the Warhawks within a run of winning, but the Lady Toppers held on to win, 7-6.

Albright (3-1) was credited with the win for the Lady Toppers, pitching two innings and giving up four runs on four hits.

Sulaski grabbed her first save of the season as she gave up two runs on two hits in five innings of work.

Perry said the weekend meant a lot for WKU’s confidence moving forward.

“I think it’s big for the team to know they can sweep, and that they can compete,” she said.

The Lady Toppers are next in action Wednesday on the road in a doubleheader against Murray State at 5 and 7 p.m.