WKU uses five-run sixth to clinch sweep of MTSU, 5-4

Ivan Hartle slides into first base during a pick-off play during Sunday’s game against Middle Tennessee. The Toppers beat MTSU 5-4, sweeping the weekend series.

Brad Stephens

Box Score

A five-run sixth inning was all WKU needed in a 5-4, sweep-clinching victory over Middle Tennessee Sunday at Nick Denes Field.

Ryan Hutchison, Ryan Huck, Jared Andreoli and Ivan Hartle all had RBIs in the inning that turned a 1-0 deficit into a 5-1 lead.

The runs came in support of Topper pitcher Brian Edelen (3-0), who pitched six innings and gave up just one Blue Raider run, which was unearned.

WKU (13-6, 3-0 Sun Belt Conference) has now won five in a row and seven of its last eight, while MTSU fell to 5-13 and 0-3 in league play.

“I’m just proud of all the guys, and Brian Edelen in particular,” WKU Head Coach Chris Finwood said. “He came out in his first start of the year, a conference game, and was just outstanding.”

Edelen gave up six hits while not walking anyone and striking out three.

He didn’t give up any runs until a fifth-inning single from MTSU third baseman Hank LaRue.

Edelen pitched in the rotation spot formerly held by sophomore right-hander Taylor Haydel.

Haydel lasted into just the third inning last Sunday before being pulled in favor of Edelen.

Concerning the role, Finwood said after the game that Edelen has locked up the Sunday starter’s spot, and “will get the ball next Sunday for sure.”

Edelen went toe-to-toe during the early parts of the game with Blue Raider pitcher Eric Gilley (1-2), who took a shutout into the sixth inning.

Gilley was pulled after Hutchison hit a double to tie the game at one with one out in the sixth.

Reliever Jud Stoltz replaced Gilley and surrendered a go-ahead two-out double from Huck.

But the floodgates opened when Stoltz was pulled for left-hander Joey McClung.

McClung’s first pitch hit senior hitter Matt Bracken.

McClung then gave up back-to-back RBI hits to Andreoli and Hartle that pushed the Topper lead to 5-1.

Both were hard-hit balls that came early in the count.

“Anytime you have runners in scoring position with two outs, you’re looking to get something early,” Hartle said. “You’ve got to be aggressive, and we were lucky enough to get two big hits there.”

Senior closer Rye Davis entered the game the next inning and pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings.

He gave up three runs in the top of the ninth but was able to get out of the inning and preserve a 5-4 win.

Davis, a preseason All-SBC team member, earned his third save of the season.

When asked if Davis will continue to be the team’s closer, Finwood said he’s “going to play it as I see it.”

“Rye just has to locate better,” Finwood said. “He’s still trying to find a groove that he was in last season. But to his credit, he didn’t let it get away, and we had a big enough lead that we held on.”

Sunday’s win meant that WKU swept MTSU in a series for the first time in recorded history.

It also meant the Toppers sit alone atop the Sun Belt standings after the opening conference weekend.

The Toppers will play next against Austin Peay at home Tuesday at 6 p.m. The game, which was originally slated for Wednesday, was moved up a day because of chances of rain.