WKU falls to Arkansas Sate in 10th inning for another Sunday loss

Brad Stephens

A “day of rest” has turned into a day of restlessness for Chris Finwood’s WKU baseball team.

The Toppers dropped a 10-inning decision Sunday to Arkansas State, 4-3, lowering WKU’s Sunday record during Sun Belt Conference play to 1-4.

Included in those four series finale losses are three games that could’ve capped off potential series sweeps for WKU (24-13, 10-5 Sun Belt), including this Sunday’s contest.

Against the Red Wolves Sunday, the Toppers took a 3-1 lead into the top of the ninth inning and brought junior right-hander Phil Wetherell out of the bullpen to finish off the win.

But Wetherell struggled to find the strike zone, walking three before giving up a game-tying two-out single to ASU first baseman Jordan Costaldo.

Then in the 10th inning, WKU sophomore right-hander Taylor Haydel gave up a single and a walk to set up a go-ahead RBI situation to ASU second baseman Zach Maggio.

Maggio took advantage with a groundball single into left field that gave ASU a 4-3 lead.

WKU had a chance to tie in the bottom of the inning with freshman pinch runner David Simmons standing at second base with two outs.

But junior left fielder Jared Andreoli, who had four hits Sunday, couldn’t get his fifth, fouling out to left fielder Logan Uxa to end the game.

Afterwards Andreoli said he was frustrated with WKU’s inabilities to win conference series finales.

“We’ve had three chances to sweep teams, and every win adds up,” Andreoli said. “We really need to suck it up and get a win on Sunday.”

Adding to the sting was the fact that had WKU held on in the ninth inning, the Toppers would’ve moved into a first-place tie with Troy atop the Sun Belt standings.

The Trojans will get to keep a one-game lead on both the Toppers and Florida Atlantic, even after losing 4-0 Sunday to Middle Tennessee.

Finwood said that it seemed like every Sunday contest “was the same game over and over again for us.”

“It’s about winning series, but we were up two and couldn’t get it done,” Finwood said. “There were just too many walks there last in the game, and that’s what it’s been.

“You’ve got to make them swing the bats, and four walks there in the last two innings aren’t going to get it done for you.”

Haydel took the loss, seeing his record drop to 5-3 and his ERA rise to 6.75.

ASU reliever Brandon Farley picked up his first win of the season after pitching 2 and 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out one.

The late-inning WKU relief failures overshadowed a dramatic pitchers’ duel, in which Topper senior right-hander Brian Edelen and ASU starter Jacob Lee both took shutouts into the seventh inning.

ASU finally broke on the scoreboard in the top of the seventh when right fielder Todd Baumgartner knocked an RBI double down the left-field line off Topper freshman right-hander Brian Doering.

The run was charged to Edelen, who officially pitched 6 and 1/3 innings, giving up one run, three hits and four walks, and striking out two.

WKU stayed scoreless until the bottom of the eighth, when junior third baseman Casey Dykes hit a bases loaded, two-out, line drive off the glove of a diving Maggio, scoring junior center fielder Kes Carter and sophomore pinch runner Blake Crabtree.

Andreoli then added an insurance run with an RBI single to left field, giving the Toppers a 3-1 lead that lasted only until Costaldo’s game-tying hit in the ninth.

The eight-inning rally aside, WKU struggled throughout the day getting big hits.

The Toppers banged out 15 hits, but just one went for extra bases, a fifth-inning double from Andreoli.

“It was a tough day to get extra-base hits,” Andreoli said. “That happens sometimes where you’ll get hits, but you just won’t score many.

“We do need to make sure when we get guys on to get big hits, but today we couldn’t get enough of them.”

Of some consolation to WKU will be that senior catcher Matt Rice tied the all-time WKU career hits mark with a fifth-inning single to right field.

Rice is now tied with former Topper great Josh Patton with 281 career hits, and he also needs just one more RBI to tie the school’s career record of 208.

Rice will have a chance to break both records at Bowling Green Ballpark Tuesday night when the Toppers take on Kentucky at 6 p.m.

“Ricey is unbelievable,” Andreoli said. “He always goes to the plate to fight his hardest on every single at-bat, and it will be fun to watch him get his hit against Kentucky at the Hot Rods Stadium.”

Additional Notes: Senior designated hitter Chris Bullard missed his fourth consecutive game Sunday while nursing a hand bruise sustained Tuesday against Austin Peay. Finwood said Bullard “felt a little bit better” Sunday, and may play against the Wildcats. Senior Matt Bracken filled in as designated hitter Sunday, going 1-for-5 … WKU will retire the No. 14 jersey of former catcher Jack Glasser before the Kentucky game. Glasser will be the first player in Topper baseball history to have a jersey retired … All WKU students will receive free admission to Tuesday’s game with a valid WKU ID.