BASEBALL: Kentucky offense runs over Toppers

Amber North

The first week of March was a sweet time for the Hilltoppers; they were riding a four-game winning streak.

This week, however, has not left the same pleasant taste in the Toppers’ mouths-two losses to area rivals will do that to a team.

They have played well at home, but in-state rival Kentucky came to town yesterday and pelted the Toppers out of their own field 18-6.

Those 18 runs are the most the Toppers have allowed in a game this season.

“It was not a matter of tough luck, but a matter of not playing better,” coach Joel Murrie said. “The players played hard and wanted to win, but we just didn’t execute. But the players gave their every effort and that’s all you can ask for.”

Before the game, Western was coming off a 9-3 Tuesday loss against Belmont.

The Bruins (12-3) had eight starting batters collect at least one hit.

Senior first baseman Matt Gunning led Western with three hits, two runs and two RBI.

But the week only got tougher for the Toppers (7-9) when they came back home to face the Wildcats (10-4).

The game looked to go Western’s way with an early 2-0 lead with sophomore third baseman Tim Grogan and Gunning having an RBI each. Grogan had two hits for the game, extending his hitting streak to eight games.

In the second inning, the Wildcats redeemed themselves by taking over the lead with three runs. Another run from Western tied the game at 3-3.

That was the last time the Toppers were close, watching the fourth and fifth innings belong to Kentucky with nine runs.

Tension filled the air in the bottom of the fifth when Gunning got called out at first. Gunning was so irate that he was tossed out of the game.

“When I tried to slide on the plate, the first baseman fell on me,” Gunning said. “Then I pushed him off of me, but when he threw me out, I kinda got angry.”

Despite having 11 total hits in the game, the Hilltoppers struggled defensively, recording three errors.

“To win in baseball you have to control the strike zone on the mound, and we didn’t,” Murrie said.

Murrie had to go through six different pitchers in search of one trying to take control at the mound. Junior starter Grady Hinchman (0-3) pitched four innings, allowing six runs, six hits and striking out six batters.

Lipscomb is next up for the Toppers at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Denes Field. It will be the first of a three-game series with the Bisons, who are 2-8 for the season.

Going on a three-game skid is something the team wants to prevent from happening.

“We’re going to review the things that need to be corrected,” Murrie said. “We need to emphasize the aspects of the game that players need to learn.”

Reach Amber North at [email protected]