Column: Tops baseball offering best ticket in town

Zach Greenwell

Baseball weather came early this year, and so did the crowds at Nick Denes Field.

Good thing, because these Toppers are once again worth seeing.

WKU picked up a clean sweep of Bowling Green State during its opening weekend, pounding the Falcons to the tune of 32 runs in three games.

It seems all too familiar, as a lineup that was largely the same shot out of the gate last season with a surprisingly explosive offense.

This kind of repetition is a good thing.

Plenty has been made of the fact that baseball’s attendance has soared with Head Coach Chris Finwood at the helm.

But you can take that even one step further. Baseball has become, at least for the foreseeable future, the best athletic fan experience on campus.

That’s not to say men’s basketball isn’t still king on the Hill, with football coming behind.

But as far as who’s putting out the best product, baseball takes the throne.

That’s not exactly music to the ears of WKU’s administration, which would prefer the “money sports” produce the best atmosphere.

At most schools, football reigns supreme. It may one day at WKU, but that day isn’t today.

Tailgating still has plenty of kinks that stifle game-day atmosphere, and the results on the field still have some catching up to do to the resources WKU football has at its disposal.

In the meantime, baseball has crept in as the social sport on campus.

A sizable crowd packed onto the first-base deck for Sunday’s game, combining beer, food and fun on one of the first pleasant days of 2011.

And you can bet more will come as spring truly rolls in along with better competition.

Finwood was the first to admit Sunday that the pitching the Toppers faced against BGSU last weekend wasn’t the cream of the crop.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the team produced in a big way for a fan base that just wants to see some success, no matter what the venue.

“I don’t think people realize how just having a good crowd in the stands and having a good atmosphere makes our guys feel first class,” Finwood said. “I think it makes us play better.”

It also makes Topper fans forget the combined 27-38 record that football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball have posted so far this school year.

And things should only get better from here.

Only Louisville’s trip to Diddle Arena has sparked more sports buzz on campus in the last year than baseball’s drumming of Kentucky at Bowling Green Ballpark in 2010, and thousands will head downtown again this year when both in-state rivals visit in less than two months.

But the fans won’t come because they’re living and dying with every baseball win. They’ll be there because the games have become an experience.

That goes for the team as well.

“It definitely helps when you’ve got a crowd behind you, getting into the game,” junior center fielder Kes Carter said.

More than anything, fans just want something they feel is worth getting behind.

And right now, baseball’s making the best case.