WKU loses 11-6 to UALR, has now dropped five of last six

Brad Stephens

Arkansas Little-Rock jumped out to four first-inning runs Sunday and held back two WKU rallies en route to an 11-6, series-clinching home win over the Toppers.

The loss was the fifth in the last six games for WKU (17-11, 6-3 Sun Belt Conference).

Meanwhile, the Trojans improved to 12-14 and 4-5 in league play.

UALR scored its first three runs when Topper sophomore first baseman Ryan Huck mishandled a bases-loaded ball hit by Trojan first baseman Jake Rowell.

UALR added its fourth run of the inning when Trojan designated hitter Justin Barnes drove in Rowell with an RBI single up the middle off WKU senior pitcher Brian Edelen.

The Toppers trailed 7-1 when they began to rally in the sixth inning.

Junior second baseman Ivan Hartle hit a leadoff single and scored when senior catcher Matt Rice hit his fourth home run of the year.

Junior center fielder Kes Carter later scored on a wild pitch, cutting the Trojan lead to 7-4.

The Toppers then had junior right fielder Ryan Hutchison on third base with one out, Huck up, and the UALR infield playing back to concede a run on a possible ground ball.

But Trojan pitcher Calvin Drinnen struck out Huck swinging for the second out of the inning on an at-bat that Head Coach Chris Finwood said frustrated him in a postgame interview with WKU’s Big Red Radio.

“Ryan Huck is just really struggling right now,” Finwood said. “He strikes out with a runner on third and the infield back giving us a run when we had a chance to cut the lead to two.”

Junior third baseman Casey Dykes then grounded out, stranding Hutchison at third.

After UALR scored a run in the bottom of the sixth that pushed its lead back to four runs, Rice hit another two-run shot in the seventh that made the WKU deficit 8-6.

But two runs was the closest the Toppers would get the rest of the game.

The Trojans added their ninth and 10th runs of the game off junior reliever Rye Davis in the seventh, then notched their 11th run of the day in the eighth off Davis.

Finwood said Sunday’s game was one of the “few days this year that we weren’t here ready to play.”

“It all starts on the mound, and when you get down 6-0 right off the bat, it’s tough to fight back from,” Finwood said. “To our kids’ credit, it was ugly, but we kind of fought back and had a chance to make it a one-run game.

“We cut it to two, but they just kept getting one or two more than us the rest of the way.”

This weekend’s series loss marked the first time that WKU has dropped a Sun Belt series this season.

Edelen (3-1) took the loss for the Toppers, his first of the season.

He gave up five earned runs, six hits and two walks, striking out four in just three innings of work.

Junior reliever Phil Wetherell came in for Edelen and surrendered two runs and four hits and struck out four in 3 and 1/3 innings of work.

Davis came in for Wetherell in the seventh and gave up three runs and four hits in 1 and 2/3 innings.

WKU will now turn its sights to a rematch with No. 23 Louisville Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the first of two Topper games this season at Bowling Green Ballpark.

Finwood said his team will need to put this weekend behind them and re-focus in order to win Tuesday.

“We’ve just got too many guys feeling sorry for ourselves,” Finwood said. “We’ve got to grow up a little bit and go back to competing for each other and competing for WKU.”