Lady Tops sweep North Texas in Saturday doubleheader

Nick Bratcher

The Lady Toppers entered Saturday at a crossroads, holding the possibility to fall to the bottom of the Sun Belt Conference or gain some much-needed ground.

WKU (20-15, 3-5 Sun Belt) accomplished the latter, winning both games of its home doubleheader against North Texas by a margin of 5-3 in the first game and 2-1 in the second.

Head Coach Tyra Perry said she didn’t talk to the players about today’s significance before the games but knew the team needed both wins.

“Today was huge,” she said. “If things go the other way, then we’re in a deep hole, so to get two wins today — and the way they got those two — was very exciting.”

WKU had a rough start in its first game with an error by junior Laura Smith, which yielded an early run in the first inning to North Texas.

The Lady Toppers answered in the third inning with a solo home run by sophomore Karavin Dew and a two-RBI double by Megan Johnson to give them the lead, 3-1.

North Texas cut the lead to 3-2 in the top of the fourth inning on a single by right fielder Renae Bromley, but the Lady Toppers just expanded their lead from there — staving off a bases-loaded, North Texas rally in the seventh inning — to capture their first win of the day.

Sophomore pitcher Mallorie Sulaski (9-6) went 2-for-2 at the plate and grabbed the win for WKU, allowing just two earned runs on 11 hits in seven innings of work.

Sulaski said she stopped worrying about her recent slump, increasing her command in the circle and providing a big boost.

“It was great to go out there and lead the team,” she said. “I wanted to make sure I kept North Texas on their feet on offense and kept us in the game on defense.”

The Lady Toppers got a better start in their second game, drawing first blood in the third inning on an RBI single from Smith to put them up, 1-0.

Smith said the 60-degree weather and the strong-gusting wind to right field made fielding difficult but also gave her confidence at the plate. She went 3-for-6 with two errors on the day.

“The wind was rough,” she said. “I guess I took what was lacking in my glove and put it in my bat.”

North Texas responded in the fifth inning with a solo home run by catcher Caitlin Grimes to tie the game at 1-1, but the tie proved fleeting as sophomore Amanda Thomas hit an RBI-single to right field in the bottom of the inning to regain the lead for WKU, 2-1.

North Texas mounted threats in the sixth and seventh innings, loading the bases with two outs both times, but failed to produce runs from the situations and fell short as WKU earned its second win of the day.

Sophomore Kim Wagner earned the win, pitching the full seven innings and allowing just one run on six hits.

Wagner, who snapped a four-game losing streak with the win, said her performance meant a lot to her personally, especially in such a clutch and commanding manner.

“It sucks when you’re struggling,” she said. “When you get the chance to prove to your teammates that you can do it, it feels really good to let them know they can still count on you.”

Perry said she was proud to see Wagner and other players step up when the game was on the line.

“I’m proud of Kim for fighting through especially,” she said. “It took a lot of mental toughness. The past couple games we’ve had moments where if someone had stepped up, we could have won.

“I feel like today, we had people step up to get the win.”

WKU will be in action again Sunday at noon against North Texas at the WKU Softball Complex.