Defense, pitching duo lead WKU to road win over FIU

Brad Stephens

WKU used defense and the arms of Tanner Perkins and Ross Hammonds to beat Florida International, 3-2, Friday in Miami.

It was the first Sun Belt Conference road win of the year for WKU (15-6, 4-0 Sun Belt) and the Toppers’ seventh victory in a row.

FIU fell to 14-10 overall and 1-3 in league play.

Sophomore left-hander Tanner Perkins (5-1) started and pitched seven innings, giving up two earned runs and six hits while striking out seven Golden Panther batters.

He was relieved by junior Ross Hammonds, who pitched two shutout innings for his third save of the season.

“The guys played so hard tonight,” WKU Head Coach Chris Finwood told Big Red Radio after the game. “It reminded me a lot of Friday night SEC games with the way both teams pitched.”

The Toppers struck first in the second inning with a leadoff home run from the bat of junior center fielder Kes Carter, his second of the season.

FIU responded with two runs off Perkins in the bottom of the second, thanks to RBI hits from catcher Jose Behar and left fielder Pablo Bermudez.

WKU tied the game at two in the fourth with an RBI single from junior right fielder Ryan Hutchison.

The Toppers then took the lead in the next inning with a sacrifice fly from junior second baseman Ivan Hartle that scored sophomore first baseman Ryan Huck.

Huck had reached on an error by Golden Panther first baseman Rudy Flores, one of four FIU errors in the game.

While the Golden Panther defense struggled, WKU’s defense in the seventh inning sealed the victory.

Topper left fielder Jared Andreoli, after trapping a double to left, made a throw to shortstop Logan Robbins to catch FIU right fielder Jabari Henry in a rundown between third and home.

The play ended the last Golden Panther rally of the night.

“Jared hitting the cutoff man as fast as he did was the key to the play,” Finwood said. “If he had overthrown (Robbins), their runner would have scored. That was the biggest play of the game because we were able to get out of that inning giving up no runs.”

With the win, Perkins has now won his last three starts.

Finwood said he was proud of Perkins’ ability to bounce back from an early one-run deficit.

“Perkins allowed us to come back and take the lead,” Finwood said. “In that situation on the road, he really showed a lot of maturity.”

Finwood also added that he enjoyed Hammonds’ performance, as the right-hander lowered his ERA to a team-low 2.45.

“He’s been lights-out all season,” Finwood said. “And he doesn’t walk guys, so in a one-run game that’s premium.”

The win means that WKU continues to sit alone atop the Sun Belt standings early in the league season.

The Toppers will try to move their conference record to 5-0 tomorrow night against FIU.

Freshman right-hander Justin Hageman (3-2, 3.49 ERA) will start for WKU.

He’ll oppose Golden Panther junior left-hander R.J. Fondon (1-2, 3.72). First pitch is 5 p.m.