BASEBALL: Bats out hibernation as spring arrives on Hill

Michael Casagrande

As spring temperatures continue to rise, the Hilltopper offensive machine has begun to turn up the heat.

The Western bats emerged from their winter hibernation over the past week and a half to provide much-needed run support.

Sophomore right fielder Brent Miller has led the Topper assault after a slow start.? Miller had 12 hits in four starts over spring break to raise his batting average from .204 to .329, the fourth best average on the team.

The Toppers (15-10, 3-3 SBC) are 5-4 in the games following a three-game sweep of Michigan State March 15 and 16.

“We are 5-4 in our last nine games, five of those have been on the road,” coach Joel Murrie said. “I’m not real pleased, I think we are capable of being better than 5-4, but the stretch we just finished may be the most difficult stretch on our schedule.”

The five-game spring break road trip will be the longest stretch of time the Toppers will spend away from the Hill.

Spring break got off to a successful start after Western won two of three game against visiting Louisiana-Lafayette as the Sun Belt Conference schedule got underway.

After winning the series with the Ragin’ Cajuns, the Toppers welcomed Louisville to Nick Denes Field on March 25. The Cardinals humiliated Western 18-1 in Louisville on March 11, but the Toppers got retribution in the form of a 4-3 victory.

Beating an in-state rival was important to Murrie, but the seasoned skipper didn’t want to over-play the meaning of the non-conference victory.

The following day the Hilltoppers traveled to Eastern Kentucky and suffered a 12-8 loss to the hands of the Colonels. The two teams combined for 23 hits, but three Topper errors proved to be costly.

After leaving dreary Richmond, Kentucky, Western headed south to Miami. While most college students in Florida were on the beach, the Toppers had to stay out of the sand, and in the dirt for a three-game series with Sun Belt foe Florida International.

It was in Miami where the Topper bats enjoyed their day in the sun. Western recorded 46 hits and 29 runs in the three games played in the Sunshine State.

Despite the increased run support, the Toppers only came away with a single victory against FIU.

After returning from Miami, the Toppers had one day to prepare for a non-conference tilt with Vanderbilt in Nashville on Tuesday.

Western raced to a 6-0 lead after the third inning en route to a 11-4 drubbing of the Southeastern Conference School. But it was a Miller fielding error in the fourth inning that gave fuel to a crowd on the short end of a lopsided score.

Western will return home to Denes Field tomorrow for a 6 p.m. series opener with Arkansas State as the Toppers resume their Sun Belt schedule. First pitch for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 2 p.m. and the series will wrap-up with the 1 p.m. finale Sunday.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected].