BASEBALL: Western’s comeback not enough

Amber North

What was a phenomenal comeback became another shortcoming for the Hilltoppers. After allowing in-state rival Louisville seven runs in the first three innings, Western came right back to score six-straight runs.

“I was proud at the fact that we didn’t pack it up when we were down seven,” coach Joel Murrie said. “It’s very hard to erase a seven-run deficit.”

But the Cardinals (17-11) came to Denes Field on Tuesday night in search of a victory against Western (16-17) after losing 8-1 in their previous meeting earlier this season.

They got what they were looking for, giving the Toppers a tough blow and a 9-6 defeat. Western has now lost three games in a row.

“We were very charitable (to Louisville) with having four errors,” Murrie said. “It’s getting too common in the last week and a half we’ve played.”

After a scoreless first inning, Louisville immediately posted five runs in the second. Then catcher Ron Braun made the situation worse when he slugged a two-run homer in the third to make it 7-0.

In the bottom of the third, freshman catcher Jordan Newton’s lead-off triple helped set up the first of six-consecutive runs.

Sophomore third baseman Dennis Winn went 2-for-5 for the game and was responsible for a career-high three of the team’s runs. His two-run single in the fifth put the Toppers within one at 7-6.

After being silenced for three innings, the Cardinals got their groove back at the top of the seventh by scoring two runs.

Down by three at the bottom of the eighth, the Toppers had a close chance to make something happen.

The bases were loaded with two outs and senior rightfielder Matt Gunning at the plate. The hope of coming back with the win ended when closer Justin Valdes struck Gunning out.

“All of this would have been moot if we didn’t spot seven runs in the first three innings,” Murrie said.

Junior centerfielder Dominic Rio led the Toppers on offense, going 3-for-4 in the game. He said that the team’s lack of defense is the reason for the loss.

“We need to play flawless baseball,” Rio said. “The pitching and hitting has been there, but we need to put all three together.”

If they put all three together, then the Arkansas State series starting tomorrow won’t be a problem.

The Indians are 16-14 this season and 1-5 in the Sun Belt Conference. The first game of the three-game series starts at 6:30 p.m. Saturday’s game is at 2 p.m. and Sunday’s is at 1 p.m.

“We expect this coming weekend to be a sweep,” Rio said.

Reach Amber North at [email protected]