WKU uses manufactured runs and bullpen to beat Lipscomb, 6-3

Brad Stephens

NASHVILLE — WKU Head Coach Chris Finwood has put an emphasis on manufacturing runs through “small ball” for his team this year.

And that’s exactly what WKU (4-0) did in the eighth inning Wednesday, bunting and stealing their way to the lead en route to a 6-3 victory over Lipscomb (3-2) at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium.

With the game tied at 3-3 in the top of the eighth, junior shortstop Logan Robbins was hit by a 3-2 pitch to get on base.

Junior third baseman Casey Dykes followed with a bunt single hit between the pitcher and second baseman, moving Robbins to second.

Sophomore pinch hitter Blake Crabtree popped up his bunt attempt, leaving Robbins and Dykes at second and first.

Finwood then elected to call for a risky double steal.

“We have Logan at second, and he’s such a good base stealer, that we had to roll the dice there,” Finwood said.

The gamble worked, as Robbins safely slid into third base under a high throw.

After a walk to junior second baseman Ivan Hartle loaded the bases, junior left fielder Jared Andreoli hit a sacrifice fly to center, knocking in WKU’s go-ahead run.

Senior catcher Matt Rice added a base knock one batter later to extend the Topper lead to 5-3.

The two eighth-inning runs, along with a home run from sophomore first baseman Ryan Huck in the ninth inning, were all the Topper bullpen needed to preserve the team’s first road win of the season.

Rice, who led WKU Wednesday with two RBIs, said that because of new NCAA bat rules, teams will have to manufacture their runs like WKU did in the eighth inning Wednesday.

“College baseball’s going to be more like that this year,” Rice said. “I thought everyone did an awesome job, especially in that inning, of having a good approach.”

WKU trailed 2-0 after the first inning and trailed 3-2 after the third inning, when senior pitcher Brian Edelen was removed from the game.

But then the bullpen combination of junior Phil Wetherell, sophomore Taylor Haydel and juniors Ross Hammonds and Rye Davis combined to shut out the Bisons over the game’s last six innings.

Haydel picked up the win in relief, while Davis recorded his first save of the year.

“Our pitchers did an outstanding job of putting up six zeros in a row,” Rice said. “Our bats were a little bit slow getting going, but they kept us in the game.”

Haydel’s performance was an improvement on his season debut Saturday, in which he surrendered four runs over 4 and 2/3 innings to Bowling Green State.

The sophomore allowed just one hit in two innings of work Wednesday.

“Taylor’s a competitor, and no one on the team doubts him,” Davis said. “Everybody has their bad games, and he just got back out on the mound today and done what he always does.”

Wednesday was also a bounce-back day for Davis himself.

A preseason All-Sun Belt Conference selection, Davis struggled in a save situation Saturday, giving up two runs in an inning of work.

But he pitched a scoreless ninth Wednesday, allowing just one baserunner.

“Today I just wanted to get back out on the mound, get that bad taste out of my mouth, and get everything going again,” Davis said.

The road win over Lipscomb was the first stop on a season-long, 10-game road trip for WKU.

The Toppers will arrive in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Thursday in preparation for this weekend’s Baseball at the Beach tournament.

Sophomore left-hander Tanner Perkins, who won his first start of the season on Opening Day, will pitch for WKU against Kansas State at 1 p.m. Friday.

The Toppers will then play Coastal Carolina at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Pacific on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Finwood said his team is still trying to “get into a rhythm” going into the tournament.

“It’ll be great competition,” Finwood said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”