Notes: Hutchison enjoys solid Topper debut

Brad Stephens

Some heads were probably scratched in the stands of Denes Field Friday when it was announced Topper newcomer Ryan Hutchison would hit fourth, one spot ahead of star senior catcher Matt Rice.

One of those surprised at the lineup card submitted by Head Coach Chris Finwood was none other than WKU President Gary Ransdell, who worked the game as an analyst for the Big Red Radio Network.

“Dr. Ransdell was asking me, ‘Wow, that’s a little better than I thought, you hitting him in the four-hole right away,'” Finwood said.

But Hutchison, a JUCO transfer, did his best to show Ransdell and the other 667 fans in attendance that he earned the cleanup honors, going 2-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs and a run scored in WKU’s 12-1 Opening Day dismantling of Bowling Green State.

The highlight of Hutchison’s day was a two-run triple that hit off the 370-feet marker on the left-center field wall.

His shot was about a foot shy of being a home run.

“He’s got light-tower power,” Finwood said. “It’s not often that you stick a new guy in that four-hole, but he gives us a great presence in the middle of the lineup.”

Hutchison played last season at Iowa Western Community College.

While there, he was part of the team that won the 2010 NJCAA World Series and earned all-conference and honorable mention All-America honors.

Coming with Hutchison to WKU from Iowa Western was second baseman Ivan Hartle.

Hartle, the other newcomer in the WKU starting lineup, went 1-for-4 with an RBI groundout and a walk.

“Ivan’s just a tough cat,” Finwood said. “He played fine, and I think he helps us anchor our defense from a mental standpoint.”

Hartle is replacing the graduated Matt Payton at second base.

Payton, who attended the game, is now in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

Bullard starts, leaves with injury

Senior Chris Bullard got the nod for the designated hitter role in Friday’s lineup, batting ninth, and he went 1-for-2 with a run.

However, he was later lifted from the lineup in favor of senior Matt Bracken.

Finwood said he made the move because Bullard felt his hamstring tightening up.

Finwood said Bullard’s status for Saturday afternoon’s game is still uncertain, but that he is expecting Bullard to add power to the bottom of the Topper lineup this year.

“Chris has got a ton of power,” Finwood said. “If you come watch us take batting practice, he launches them out of here left and right. He’s going to be a big help to us.”

Bullard is one of the more familiar faces for Topper fans.

The Georgia native was a linebacker on WKU’s football team for four years.

Additional notes

The game was delayed 32 minutes thanks to a rain shower that moved through Bowling Green during the early afternoon. First pitch was pushed back from 3 p.m. to 3:32 p.m. … Friday saw the Topper debuts of freshmen Scott Wilcox and David Simmons. Wilcox, a Burlington, Ontario, native, entered the game as a pinch runner for Ryan Huck and played third base. He was hit by a pitch in his only plate appearance. Simmons, who played at Pike High School in Indianapolis, played left field and was 0-for-1 with a strikeout … WKU is now 5-2 in season openers under Finwood … With four RBIs Friday, Rice is now 40 RBIs shy of the school career record, which stands at 208.