Toppers blow out Bowling Green State, 12-1, on Opening Day

Brad Stephens

If an Opening Day performance is a barometer for the season, then WKU has great things to look forward to this year.

The Toppers (1-0) dominated Bowling Green State Friday at Denes Field, beating the Falcons, 12-1, in their season opener.

Sophomore pitcher Tanner Perkins (1-0) got the start on the mound and threw six shutout innings for WKU with five strikeouts, holding BGSU (0-1) to two hits.

On the offensive side, WKU used a six-run fourth inning to turn what was a two-run lead into an 8-0 advantage.

Senior catcher Matt Rice led WKU with four RBIs, while junior right fielder Ryan Hutchison drove in three runs in his Topper debut.

Junior left fielder Jared Andreoli recorded three hits, including a two-run double that gave WKU a four-run lead.

Head Coach Chris Finwood said he couldn’t have asked for anything more from his Toppers.

“We hadn’t really gotten as much work as we normally do because of the weather, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Finwood said. “But I thought the kids played pretty well today.”

Perkins’ performance especially pleased Finwood.

“I thought Tanner did a great job,” Finwood said. “He kept the ball down in the strike zone, didn’t walk guys and allowed his defense to play behind him.”

Perkins’ day didn’t get off to a great start, as he surrendered a first-pitch base hit through the middle of the infield to BGSU left fielder Andrew Kunjs to start the game.

But while facing the next batter, Perkins was able to time Kunjs’s attempt to steal second and threw over to first, catching Kunjs in a rundown.

Sophomore first baseman Ryan Huck threw down to junior shortstop Logan Robbins to complete the out, eliminating an early Falcon threat.

“That pickoff was a real big momentum swing because the No. 2 hitter (BGSU shortstop Jon Berti) is really good,” Perkins said. “That just totally changed the game on the second pitch of the game.”

After the Kunjs single, BGSU didn’t record another hit until the fourth inning, when Berti ripped a line drive down the left-field line.

But another big defensive play ended that threat in a hurry.

Berti attempted to stretch his single into a double, but Andreoli gunned him out at second.

“I knew he was going to go to second,” Andreoli said. “So I just figured I’d come up and try to throw it as hard as I could, and it worked out for me.”

The play helped preserve what was at the time only a two-run WKU lead.

Following that hit, the Falcons didn’t get another until the eighth inning, the frame in which they scored their only run.

However, the Toppers didn’t suffer the same quiet bat syndrome that plagued the Falcons, tallying 12 hits on the day.

They also benefitted from a wild BGSU pitching staff.

BGSU starter Charles Wooten (0-1) and three other Falcon pitchers combined to walk 10 WKU batters and hit another five.

“Our approaches were good,” Finwood said. “Their pitchers were a little wild, and we did a good job of laying off and taking our walks, and we took advantage of them.”

WKU will now turn its attention to game two of the series, which starts at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Sophomore Taylor Haydel, who had a 3-4 record with a 6.94 ERA a year ago, will get the start for the Toppers against BGSU’s Nick Bruns, who notched a 3-1 record with a 7.99 ERA in 2010.

Perkins said he’s confident Haydel will have the same kind of performance Saturday that he enjoyed Friday.

“We’re going to come out on fire tomorrow,” Perkins said. “We can’t give these guys any slack. We’ll be on top of our game.”