WKU tallies just three hit in 3-1 loss at No. 23 Louisville

Brad Stephens

LOUISVILLE — With temperatures in the 40s and winds blowing in, Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville wasn’t exactly a hitter’s paradise Tuesday night.

The results showed, as No. 23 Louisville defeated WKU (16-8, 5-1 Sun Belt Conference) 3-1 in a game that included just nine total hits.

WKU Head Coach Chris Finwood called Tuesday “an awful night to be a hitter.”

“It was cold, and the winds were blowing in, so we knew that we weren’t going to score a lot of runs, and neither were they,” Finwood said.

Louisville (16-8) came into the game hitting just .258 on the season as a team but found a way to produce runs in the seventh and eighth innings off WKU sophomore pitcher Taylor Haydel.

Haydel surrendered a leadoff walk to Louisville left fielder Zak Wasserman to begin the seventh.

Pinch runner Adam Engel replaced Wasserman, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, then scored when Louisville shortstop Alex Chittenden hit a single back up the box, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead.

Haydel issued another leadoff walk in the eighth inning to center fielder Cole Sturgeon.

Sturgeon later scored the game’s final run on a sacrifice fly from second baseman Ryan Wright to make the score 3-1.

Louisville closer Tony Zych allowed two base runners in the ninth before inducing a game-ending fly ball from Topper second baseman Ivan Hartle.

“They got one more hit than we did, and we walked the leadoff guy in the seventh and eighth, and that was the ballgame,” Finwood said.

Haydel picked up the loss, moving his record to 2-2 this season.

He was pitching in relief of junior pitcher Phil Wetherell, who was making his first career start.

Wetherell, primarily a reliever for the Toppers, pitched four innings, surrendering just two hits and an unearned run while striking out five.

“Coach just wanted me to come out and get some work in,” Wetherell said. “He told me to focus on keeping the ball down and having good fastball command. That’s all I was trying to do out there.”

Finwood said his team achieved its primary goal of the night, which was “to get Phil Wetherell straightened out.”

Wetherell’s ERA lowered from 4.35 entering Tuesday to its current level of 3.65.

The only run Louisville scored off Wetherell came courtesy of a throwing error from freshman Scott Wilcox, playing shortstop Tuesday in place of Logan Robbins.

Robbins was held back in Bowling Green because of a leg infection.

Finwood said Robbins will miss Wednesday’s home game against Belmont but will hopefully be in the lineup during this weekend’s Sun Belt road series against Arkansas-Little Rock.

Freshman right-hander Brian Doering relieved Wetherell and pitched the fifth and sixth innings, giving up a single hit and striking out two.

While Louisville batters had trouble against Wetherell and Doering, the Topper lineup had just as much trouble against Louisville freshman right-hander Jeff Thompson.

Thompson, making his second career start, came into the game with a perfect ERA of 0.00 through seven appearances.

He surrendered his first college run on a second-inning single from sophomore first baseman Ryan Huck.

That was the only hit Thompson allowed during his 5 and 1/3 innings of work, as he struck out seven WKU batters.

However Finwood said the lack of WKU runs was a result of poor hitting conditions, not the performance of Thompson.

“(Thompson) was just okay I thought,” Finwood said. “We hit some line drives right at people, and that happens sometimes. But Louisville is one of the leaders in the country in pitching, and they showed why.”

Louisville relief pitcher Derek Self picked up his second win of the season after pitching an 1 and 1/3 innings of perfect baseball.

Self’s biggest out came when he struck out senior catcher Matt Rice with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning.

The three men left on in the seventh were part of the 10 total that WKU left on base Tuesday.

This followed a Sunday loss to Florida International in which the lineup stranded 17 Toppers.

WKU will look to end its two-game skid when it squares off with Belmont at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Nick Denes Field.

Junior Rye Davis, primarily a reliever, will make the start for the Toppers.

WKU has already beaten the Bruins once this year, 11-6 in Nashville, and Finwood said his team will be trying for a similar result Wednesday.

“They’ll get out there ready to get after it tomorrow,” Finwood said. “Hopefully it’ll be warmer and the ball will be traveling a little better.”