It took a while for the bats to get going, but once they did, they came in a fury in Western’s 8-3 win over Youngstown State yesterday.
After scoring just two runs in seven innings, the host Hilltoppers scored six runs on five hits in the eighth inning to take the lead and put the game away.
“Our guys did a great job with the short game in the eighth,” coach Joel Murrie said. “They put us in a situation to break open the inning with some well-executed bunts.”
The visiting Penguins started the game with one run on two hits in the first inning to grab the momentum. That momentum continued until freshman catcher Jordan Newton scored the Toppers’ first run on a double by senior second baseman Matt Johnston after hitting a double of his own.
The Penguins led off the seventh with Justin Banks’ second solo home run of the game off junior pitcher Daniel Faulkner. Western came back in the bottom half of the inning with a solo home run of its own by senior designated hitter Cary Page to bring the Toppers within one.
“I just lost my composure a bit,” Faulkner said. “I just served them up and he got all of them, but it happens.”
The eighth inning proved to be the difference maker in the game. After cruising through seven innings, Faulkner loaded the bases with Penguins, getting only one out. Junior reliever Mike Shope then came in for Faulkner and got the Toppers out of the inning unscathed by getting two popups.
“Daniel did a great job of handling the pressure situations but it was obvious that the momentum had shifted,” Murrie said. “I felt confident that Shope would get us through without too much damage.”
The Toppers got the bats rolling in the bottom of the eighth. Newton led off the inning with a hit to left over the outstretched glove of YSU shortstop J.J. Newman. After Western loaded the bases with bunt singles by sophomore infielder Matt Ransdell and Johnston, senior right fielder Matt Gunning’s walk drove in the tying run.
“Johnston’s bunt just hit the seam in the defense,” Murrie said. “Matt (Ransdell) was trying to just sacrifice but he legged out a great hit.”
Ransdell and Johnston both would score moments later on a double by junior first baseman Marcus Ross to give the Toppers the lead 4-3. An error by YSU catcher Brandon Caipen on the throw home after a bouncer to second by Antone Towns gave the Toppers a 6-3 lead. Sophomore center fielder Dennis Winn then gave the Toppers the final margin by collecting two RBIs after a hit to right that scored Ross and Towns.
“It wasn’t a single person that made the difference,” Winn said. “Everybody did their job, we put pressure on the defense, and we caught some good breaks, too.”
Shope returned to the mound in the ninth and closed out the 8-3 win for the Tops after giving up one hit.
“Early in the game we weren’t very selective and aggressive in getting our pitches to hit,” Murrie said. “I’m very pleased with our play late in the game, though.”
The Toppers (10-10) will again tango with the Penguins of YSU today. The two will square off in game two of a three-game set today at 3 p.m. today at Denes Field.
Reach Jason Stamm at [email protected]