Notes: Toppers ready to battle Ole Miss

Brad Stephens

In the 2009 NCAA Oxford Regional, underdog WKU needed two do-or-die wins against Mississippi to advance to an NCAA Super Regional.

The Toppers came back from a six-run deficit in the eighth inning of the first game to win 10-9.

But WKU’s season ended the next night with a 4-1 loss, thanks to a 16-strikeout two-hitter hurled by Rebel ace Drew Pomeranz, a future top-five MLB draft pick.

The Toppers now have a chance for some payback.

WKU (6-5) will travel to Oxford, Miss., for a two-game road series against Ole Miss (10-3) on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

First pitch for both games is set for 6:30 p.m.

Junior left fielder Jared Andreoli is one of several current Topper veterans that were on the 2009 team.

He said the experience from that season will be motivation for WKU when stepping on the field Tuesday night.

“Any time you have a chance to play against a team you battled with in a regional, then you’re definitely excited,” Andreoli said Sunday. “I can’t wait to battle with Ole Miss.”

Sophomore pitcher Tanner Perkins is expected to start for the Toppers Tuesday.

Perkins has gone 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA so far this season.

Meanwhile, senior Brian Edelen will go to the mound for WKU on Wednesday.

Edelen has pitched 13.2 innings this season with no record and a 5.27 ERA.

The Toppers have lost five of their last six in the midst of a 10-game road trip, including losses to ranked opponents College of Charleston and Auburn last weekend.

WKU did, however, earn a 17-1 victory over New York Tech Saturday afternoon to snap what was a four-game skid.

The Rebels are also taking a losing streak into Tuesday after dropping two consecutive home games against Tulane over the weekend.

Ole Miss’ lineup features Matt Tracy, who leads the team with a .412 batting average, and Tanner Mathis, who leads the Rebels with 10 RBIs.

Hageman turns in a gem

Perhaps the biggest positive of the past weekend for WKU was the performance of freshman pitcher Justin Hageman in the 17 -1 win against New York Tech.

Hageman gave up just one run over seven innings.

“It wasn’t anything that I did too special,” Hageman said Sunday. “All my pitches were just working.”

The Hopkinsville native added that 17 runs of support gave him a nice cushion to work with.

“Our bats went dead after the first three games, but they were rocking the ball Saturday,” Hageman said. “All nine guys in the lineup hit well, and that was the big difference.”

A highly sought-after prospect in high school, Hageman turned down a professional offer from the Kansas City Royals to play at WKU.

His stats reflect that he has adjusted well to the college game, as he owns a 2-1 record and 2.40 ERA through his first three starts.

“In high school, you can just throw the ball hard,” Hageman said. “But you really have to watch where you throw in college. You can’t just hang a curveball down the middle. You have to put the ball where it’s supposed to be pitched.”

Almost home

Following the Ole Miss series, the Toppers will return to Bowling Green for an off day and then a three-game weekend set against Illinois.

It will be the first time WKU has played at Nick Denes Field since a three-game sweep of Bowling Green State to open the season.

Hageman said he’s enjoyed his first college road trip, but that the team is ready to play in front of a home crowd.

“We’re having a lot of fun,” he said. “I like the road, but the best part about the road is knowing that we’ll be home soon.”

WKU’s road trip started with a win in Nashville against Lipscomb.

The team then traveled to the Baseball at the Beach Tournament, where they defeated Kansas State but lost to Coastal Carolina and Pacific.

The Toppers returned last Tuesday to Nashville for a dramatic 6-5 loss to No.2 Vanderbilt.

Then WKU went back to the South Carolina for the College of Charleston Tournament, where the team went 1-2.

Coming from a player who’s been on the road plenty of times as a Topper, Andreoli said he’s been mostly satisfied with WKU’s 10-game tour of the South.

“We’re a veteran team, so we knew what to expect with this road trip,” he said.” I think it’s been pretty solid. We’ve handled tough competition well. Playing these teams on the road now prepares you for late in the season when you’re gunning for a conference championship.”