Toppers take two from Arkansas State to win series

Brad Stephens

One night after WKU amassed just three hits over twelve innings, Topper bats came to life Saturday in two wins over Arkansas State.

In the first game, a continuation of a suspended 12-inning contest from Friday, junior second baseman Ivan Hartle knocked a walk-off single through the left side to give WKU a 3-2 win in 13 innings.

The Toppers (24-12, 10-4 Sun Belt Conference) didn’t need late-inning drama in the nightcap, beating the Red Wolves 13-2 behind a six-run fifth inning and four-run eighth.

WKU Head Coach Chris Finwood said two wins in one day made for a great day at the ballpark.

“In baseball one day can make all the difference in the world,” Finwood said. “Yesterday we looked like we were swinging telephone poles, and today we were whistling it pretty good.”

Hartle’s winning single capped off a comeback rally for the Toppers after sophomore reliever Taylor Haydel gave up a run in the top of the 13th, giving ASU a 2-1 lead.

Junior third baseman Casey Dykes and sophomore first baseman Ryan Huck responded with back-to-back, one-out singles in the bottom of the inning.

Finwood then pulled freshmen David Simmons and Jordan Cessna off the bench to pinch run for Dykes and Huck.

Junior left fielder Jared Andreoli advanced Simmons and Cessna with an infield single off pitcher Sam Jew.

Hartle then hit the game-winning single to left on a pitch he said he was “looking to drive.”

The four hits in the 13th were more than WKU managed to amass all of Friday night.

Hartle said the walk-off win gave WKU a definite momentum boost going into the second game.

“You can tell (ASU) was kind of deflated after that,” he said. “Then we were able to put up some big innings in the second game.”

The Toppers fell behind 1-0 in the second inning of the second game after Red Wolves’ right fielder Todd Baumgartner took a Justin Hageman fastball over the WKU bullpen in left field.

ASU then added a second run on a sacrifice fly from catcher Tyler Smith.

But the Red Wolves’ lead lasted to only the fourth inning.

Topper shortstop Logan Robbins cut the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI triple off the left-center wall.

Robbins was driven in on a single from senior catcher Matt Rice to tie the game at two.

Dykes, Rice, junior center fielder Kes Carter and junior right-fielder Ryan Hutchison all had RBI hits in the six-run fifth that saw WKU take an 8-2 lead.

Carter added to the damage with a solo shot in the seventh to make the Topper lead 9-2.

And in the eighth inning, Hartle, Andreoli, Rice and Carter all collected RBI hits, making the final score 13-2.

Carter finished the day 3-for-5 with four RBIs and two runs scored.

Rice also had a 3-for-5 day, knocking in three runs and scoring one.

The last of his three hits gave him 279 for his career, moving him past Brad Worley for second place on the all-time WKU career hits list.

He’s two hits shy of tying the school record and is also one RBI short of matching the school record of 208.

Hageman pitched eight innings, giving up just one earned run and one walk while striking out eight.

He moved to 6-3 on the year, while ASU starter Brad Allen saw his record fall to 2-3 after surrendering eight runs and 10 hits over 4 and 1/3 innings.

The two Saturday wins clinched the series for the Toppers and, following a split doubleheader between Troy and Middle Tennessee, allowed WKU to move to within a game of the first-place Trojans in the Sun Belt standings.

In order to earn the weekend sweep Sunday, the Toppers will have to find a way to overcome ASU right-hander Jacob Lee.

Lee was named the Preseason Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year but is just 3-3 in 2011 despite an impressive 2.24 ERA.

Finwood will send senior right-hander Brian Edelen (3-1, 4.70 ERA) out to oppose Lee.

First pitch is 1 p.m. at Nick Denes Field.