WKU recovers from rough first inning, beats Austin Peay 17-6

Brad Stephens

Things didn’t look good for WKU in the first inning at Austin Peay Tuesday night.

The Governors’ leadoff batter, center fielder Michael Blanchard, scored after WKU junior outfielders Kes Carter and Ryan Hutchison collided while going after a fly ball.

The play was originally ruled an inside-the-park home run but was later charged as an error to Carter.

APSU added three more runs in the inning off Topper sophomore right-hander Taylor Haydel to take an early 4-1 lead.

But Carter turned the three-run deficit into a one-run lead with a third-inning grand slam.

The Toppers (21-12) never looked back on their way to a 17-6 road victory, tying their season high for runs scored.

“I was really proud of the guys,” Head Coach Chris Finwood told WKU’s Big Red Radio following the game. “We had the four-base error in the first inning, we got that out of the way, and then it was all downhill from there.”

Carter went 4-for-6 on the day with five RBIs and three runs scored, but he wasn’t the only WKU batter to have a big day.

Senior catcher Matt Rice went 4-for-5, scoring a team-high four runs and knocking in three.

And freshman Scott Wilcox went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, two walks and a run after taking over as designated hitter for senior Chris Bullard in the third inning.

Bullard left with what Finwood called a “severe hand bruise” after being struck by a pitch.

Finwood said that Bullard would “probably get X-rays,” and that he won’t play in the Toppers’ Wednesday night home matchup with Murray State.

The Toppers created eight runs of damage in a fifth inning that saw their first seven batters reach base safely.

Rice, Carter and Hutchison all had RBIs in the inning that turned a 5-4 WKU lead into a 13-4 blowout.

“Anytime you put up an eight, that’s obviously hard for anyone to overcome,” Finwood said. “That was pretty much the ballgame right there.”

The Toppers added one run on a sixth-inning groundout off the bat of junior third baseman Casey Dykes, and three runs on a ninth-inning Wilcox double.

Haydel got the midweek start for WKU and earned his fourth win of the season.

He pitched five innings, giving up 11 hits, a walk and six runs, though just two of them were earned.

Haydel also struck out six.

“He settled down after the first inning, threw the ball in the strike zone, and we were able to make some plays behind him,” Finwood said.

Freshman Brian Doering and junior Ross Hammonds relieved Haydel on the mound, pitching two shutout innings apiece.

Both gave up just one hit in their respective outings.

First pitch for tomorrow night’s game against Murray is 6 p.m. at Nick Denes Field, and junior right-hander Rye Davis will start for WKU.

A Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference selection, Davis has struggled this season, going 1-3 with an 8.10 ERA and issuing 16 walks with 20 strikeouts in 23.1 innings pitched.

Davis’ only other 2011 start came March 30 in a home loss to Belmont.

He gave up three runs, four hits and three walks over four innings in that game but didn’t factor into the final decision.

Finwood said his goal for Davis’ start is to “get him going.”

He also said he wants his lineup to carry over Tuesday’s performance into a Murray game that will mark the last time the Toppers play two midweek games in the same week this season.

“I told them I want 15 runs both of these days,” Finwood said. “We did it today, so we’ve got to do it again tomorrow.”