WKU blasts its way past Louisville at Bowling Green Ballpark

Junior relief pitcher Ross Hammonds makes his wind-up in WKU’s game against Louisville Tuesday at the Hot Rods’ Bowling Green Ballpark. WKU beat UofL 15-5.

Brad Stephens

WKU went into a Tuesday matchup with Louisville having lost five of its last six games.

But the Toppers broke out of their slump with 11 runs in the first three innings on the way to a 15-5 blowout victory over the Cardinals in front of 2,523 fans at Bowling Green Ballpark.

WKU was led offensively by senior catcher Matt Rice and senior designated hitter Chris Bullard, both of whom tallied two hits, a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored apiece.

The win was the first time the Toppers had played at the downtown home of the Single-A Bowling Green Hot Rods since a 24-8 win over Kentucky there last April.

WKU Head Coach Chris Finwood joked after the game that after scoring 39 runs in their first two games there, his players wanted to move all Topper home games to the ballpark.

Meanwhile, Bullard said even though Tuesday’s game wasn’t played at Nick Denes Field, the team still looked at it as a home game.

“We like coming out here in front of a big crowd that always comes out here,” Bullard said. “Bowling Green is our home turf, and we try to protect it.”

The win also snapped a six-game losing streak against the Cardinals for WKU.

Many of the Toppers’ recent losses to Louisville have been close contests, so Finwood said he was glad to finally have a game where the outcome was hardly ever in question.

“The last five or six have gone down to the eighth or ninth innings, and they’ve had our number,” Finwood said. “I figured the odds would catch up with them sooner or later, and it was nice to have one where you could just relax and play.”

Rice said the atmosphere was opposite from when the teams met March 29 at Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville.

WKU tallied just four hits in that game, a 3-1 loss.

But the WKU lineup banged out 16 hits Tuesday and reached Cardinal starter Jeff Thompson for six runs in his one inning of work.

“It was a completely different atmosphere here and there,” Rice said. “Up there it was cold, and nothing was moving. Today the wind was blowing out, and the umpire had a tighter zone.

“Everyone had a great approach at the plate and bounced back against a pitcher that had pretty much dominated us last week.”

The Toppers will now look to carry their momentum into a home weekend Sun Belt Conference series against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The first game of the series will be played tonight at 6 p.m. at Nick Denes Field.

Sophomore left-hander Tanner Perkins (6-1, 2.09 ERA) will start for WKU.

Meanwhile, the Toppers will hope to have junior shortstop Logan Robbins back in the lineup after missing the team’s last six games with phlebitis in his foot.

Freshman Scott Wilcox has been filling in at shortstop in Robbins’ absence.   

The weekend series carries plenty of significance for both the Toppers and the Ragin’ Cajuns.

The two teams are tied for second in the Sun Belt standings with conference records of 6-3.

Finwood said he thinks the Louisville win, which marked the beginning of the second half of the season, will spark his team going into the series.

“We’re 1-0 in the second half of the season,” Finwood said Tuesday. “Hopefully tonight gives guys some confidence.”