WKU’s bats come alive in 13-5 win over Illinois

Brad Stephens

The WKU lineup struggled against Illinois’ pitching on Friday and Saturday, combining for eight runs in the two games.

But the Toppers faced no such challenges from the Illini on Sunday, banging out 15 hits and drawing 12 walks en route to a 13-5 win at Nick Denes Field.

“We didn’t swing the bats real well at all Friday and Saturday,” Head Coach Chris Finwood said after the game. “We took advantage of our walks today, still left too many guys on, but I was proud of how hard our guys played.”

The Toppers did much of their damage in a five-run fourth inning.

With the game tied at one, junior third baseman Casey Dykes led off with a double to the left-field corner off Illinois starter Corey Kimes.

Then freshman pitcher Justin Hageman, who was being used as a designated hitter for the first time in his career, hit a two-strike RBI double just out of the reach of Illinois right fielder Davis Hendrickson.

WKU added four more runs in the inning on a wild pitch, a two-RBI single from senior catcher Matt Rice and an RBI single from junior shortstop Logan Robbins.

Robbins said the shot from Hageman put pressure on the lineup regulars to keep the rally going.

“It was a huge spark,” said Robbins, who finished with three RBIs. “We’re sitting over here thinking, ‘Well if he can do it and hasn’t hit all year, then we better pick it up and hit.'”

Hageman has a 2-2 record and 2.91 ERA during his first season as a Topper pitcher.

But he said Finwood has promised him plate appearances throughout the year.

“Coach said once I got a few starts in pitching, I could get out and hit some,” Hageman said. “I love hitting, and that’s one of the reasons I liked Western was because they’d let me two-way.

“With all the guys in our lineup this year, I don’t mind not hitting, but if they ask me to I’ll do my job.”

While Hageman had a day to remember, sophomore pitcher Taylor Haydel had a performance he’ll hope to forget.

Haydel started but was pulled by Finwood after issuing a leadoff walk in the third inning.

Haydel had thrown just 34 pitches before being replaced by senior Brian Edelen.

When asked if Haydel “didn’t have it,” Finwood replied by saying “that’s being polite.”

“He didn’t have it today, and we weren’t going to go very far with him,” Finwood said. “He’s just got to learn how to compete out there. He doesn’t compete enough.

“I don’t know who’s going to start next Sunday. But we’ll need a better starting performance than that.”

Edelen did well in relief, pitching three innings and giving up three hits and one run.

He was later replaced by junior Phil Wetherell, who gave up six runs on three hits in 1 and 1/3 innings of relief.

But junior closer Rye Davis pitched 2 and 2/3 shutout innings to earn his second save of the year.

Several Topper batters put up big numbers Sunday.

Junior left fielder Jared Andreoli went 3-for-4 with a walk, a stolen base, an RBI and four runs scored.

Rice went 2-for-2, drew four walks and knocked in four runs.

And junior second baseman Ivan Hartle went 2-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored.

WKU will next travel to Nashville on Tuesday to play Belmont. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.