BASEBALL: Toppers take 11-7 win against Tennessee-Martin

Amber North

Slow pace, sluggish performance, and being out hit is a triple threat which every baseball team must occasionally face.

But the Hilltoppers overcame it in their 11-7 win against Tennessee-Martin last night.

The Toppers (15-14, 1-2 Sun Belt Conference) lost two of three games last weekend in the Sun Belt Conference opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Despite allowing 12 hits compared to its eight, Western’s clutch swinging of the bats helped them seize momentum from the Skyhawks.

And it didn’t hurt that Martin (7-15) had four errors in the game.

“I thought we were very fortunate to come away with the win,” coach Joel Murrie said. “Martin swung bats well and had a lot of hits.”

Western quickly put itself on the board in the first inning because of two errors by Skyhawk second baseman Bryant Jones, making it easy for sophomore third baseman Tim Grogan to score the first run of the game.

It took the Toppers three innings to finally earn a hit when senior right fielder Matt Gunning plated his first of three doubles into center field to assure a 3-1 lead.

“Gunning had some great approaches at the plate and had an outstanding hitting game,” Murrie said.

Martin had brief control of the game when they pounded three runs in the fourth to take its first and only lead of the game 4-3.

But the Toppers did not want to lose their fourth game at Denes Field.

Sophomore shortstop Matt Ransdell’s double drove in two runners to give the team the lead again.

Through the first six innings the teams were close in scoring until the Toppers took a 9-5 lead in the seventh inning.

The game was cemented once the Toppers scored two more runs in the eighth, Martin coming up short in the top of the ninth.

Gunning is continuing his consistent swing, going 3-5 for the game. He also leads the team with a .414 batting average.

“I felt good at the plate and have been swinging pretty well at the plate lately,” Gunning said. “I’m just trying to get good pitches at the plate and try not to get myself out.”

The non-satisfactory win against Martin gives the Toppers a boost for this weekend’s schedule against Florida International.

The first game starts at 6 p.m. Friday at Denes Field. Then the teams match up Saturday at 2 p.m. and at noon on Sunday.

“You can’t always play your best, but getting a ‘W’ by playing just average sets the tone for the weekend,” Gunning said.

But FIU is not a team to sneeze over. With an overall record of 18-16, the Golden Panthers are undefeated in the conference with three wins.

“FIU is the prototype of what Sun Belt baseball is about – good pitching, run the bases well and hit well,” Murrie said. “There is no flaw in their ball club, which will be a challenge for us. If we played like we did (Wednesday) we’re going to have difficulties winning any game.”

Reach Amber North at [email protected]