WKU clobbers No. 25 Louisville 15-5 at Bowling Green Ballpark

Senior catcher Matt Rice rounds third base to score a run at Bowling Green Ballpark on Tuesday. WKU beat UofL 15-5.

Brad Stephens

Bowling Green Ballpark technically isn’t WKU’s home baseball stadium.

But if the Toppers keep lighting up the park’s scoreboard like a pinball machine, Head Coach Chris Finwood’s WKU team may want to play all of its games there.

The Toppers beat Louisville Tuesday night at Bowling Green Ballpark, 15-5, after jumping out to 11 runs in the first three innings.

It was WKU’s first time back at the home of the Single-A Bowling Green Hot Rods since dismantling Kentucky 24-8 there last April.

Senior designated hitter Chris Bullard knocked in the first two Topper runs with a first-inning double down the right-field line and added a solo home run in the third inning that landed beyond the street that runs behind the right-field wall.

Bullard said that even though WKU’s official home is Nick Denes Field, he views Bowling Green Ballpark as a second home for the Toppers.

“It’s Bowling Green, it’s our home turf, and we’ve got to protect it,” Bullard said. “We take an aggressive approach and try to get runs.”

Finwood said that after scoring a combined 39 runs in two games at the stadium, many of his players “want to move their home games to this ballpark.”

“This game tonight reminded me a lot of last year’s game against Kentucky,” Finwood said. “We got a lot of big hits, a lot of extra base hits, and it was fun to watch.”

All nine starters in WKU’s starting lineup collected at least one base hit, as the team notched 16 hits overall.

Bullard finished 2-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

Senior catcher Matt Rice also had a big day, going 3-for-4 with a home run, two walks, three RBIs and two runs scored.

Junior left-fielder Jared Andreoli, junior second baseman Ivan Hartle and freshman first baseman Justin Hageman all had multiple RBIs as well.

The 15-run explosion was a remarkable turnaround from the Toppers’ last game with the Cardinals, played last Tuesday at Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville.

WKU lost that matchup 3-1 after collecting just four hits on a bitterly cold night.

In the first meeting, the Toppers especially struggled to hit off freshman right-hander Jeff Thompson, who gave up just one run while striking out seven in 5 and 1/3 innings of work.

But the Toppers reached Thompson for six runs on six hits — including the Bullard and Rice home runs — in the third inning, turning a 5-2 advantage into an 11-2 rout.

Rice said the hitting conditions Tuesday, along with playing in front of 2,523 fans that were mostly supporting WKU, allowed for the lineup’s success.

“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.”

Sophomore right-hander Taylor Haydel started for WKU and earned the victory after pitching two innings of two-run, one-hit baseball.

Relievers Ross Hammonds, Brian Doering and Phil Wetherell all had scoreless appearances out of the Topper bullpen.

However Louisville did notch three fifth-inning runs off WKU junior reliever Rye Davis, who saw his 2011 ERA raised to 7.94.

He pitched a scoreless sixth inning afterwards, which pleased Finwood.

“Rye had a tough fifth inning but went back out there in the sixth and was better,” Finwood said. “His results aren’t exactly what he wants, but I think it’s coming for him, and mechanically he’s getting better.”

Starter Chad Green picked up the loss for Louisville after giving up five runs, just one of which was earned, on three hits and four walks over two innings pitched.

Tuesday’s win snapped a stretch for WKU that had seen it lose five of its last six games.

The Toppers will now look to parlay the momentum from Tuesday into a home weekend Sun Belt Conference series with Louisiana-Lafayette.

First pitch Friday at Nick Denes Field is scheduled for 6 p.m. and sophomore left-hander Tanner Perkins will pitch for WKU.

Bullard said the Toppers are ready for the Ragin’ Cajuns after “getting that monkey off our backs.”

“It was a great win,” Bullard said. “Now we’re looking forward to this weekend.”