Sullivan’s pair of home runs powers WKU’s offense in defeat of FIU

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WKU pitcher, Kennedy Sullivan (4) hits a walk off hit in the 9th inning during the game against Kentucky on Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

Jake Moore, Softball beat reporter

WKU Softball (21-11), (4-5, C-USA) defeated the FIU Golden Panthers (12-22), (4-9, C-USA) by a score of 9-1 in the opener of a four-game away series on Friday afternoon. The win extended WKU’s winning streak to three games and the Hilltoppers combined for 12 hits in the lightning-interrupted matchup.

Redshirt sophomore Kennedy Sullivan made her seventh start of the season, pitching four innings and racking up four strikeouts while keeping the Golden Panthers to just one run on three hits.

Sullivan gave WKU an early lead in the top of the first inning thanks to a two-run home run to left field. It was the two-way player’s ninth long ball of the season. Redshirt sophomore Taylor Davis then reached first base on an error with the bases loaded allowing redshirt junior Kendall Smith to cross home plate. The Hilltoppers left the frame with a 3-0 lead.

FIU cut WKU’s lead to 3-1 with an RBI double in the bottom of the first inning, but Sullivan’s first strikeout of the game and a pop-up to redshirt sophomore Jordan Ridge at second base ended the frame.

Sullivan wasn’t finished as she hit her second home run of the day and tenth of the season to drive home Jordan Ridge and extend WKU’s lead to 5-1. Sullivan now leads the Hilltoppers in home runs.

FIU placed runners at first and second base in the bottom of the second, but Sullivan struck out two batters swinging, and catcher Kendall Smith caught a runner attempting to steal third base to end the inning.

The Hilltoppers pulled off a slick double-play in the bottom of the third inning when an FIU batter grounded out on a bunt and redshirt junior first baseman Maddie Bowlds gunned out a base runner at third.

The Hilltoppers further extended their lead to 8-1 in the top of the fourth inning when WKU freshman Kennedy Foote hit a two-RBI double down the infield line and redshirt freshman TJ Webster scored Taylor Davis after reaching on a fielder’s choice.

The game experienced a lightning delay in the middle of the fifth inning that lasted over half an hour, but the pause had no negative effects on the Hilltoppers’ bats. Redshirt freshman TJ Webster doubled in the top of the seventh and redshirt senior Paige Carter hit a double of her own immediately after to extend WKU’s lead to 9-1. It was Carter’s 13th double of the year.

Redshirt junior Shelby Nunn relieved Sullivan after the lightning delay and threw three scoreless innings with two strikeouts to secure the victory.

Jordan Ridge, Kennedy Sullivan, Kendall Smith and Maddie Bowlds all contributed two hits apiece with both of Sullivan’s hits coming from home runs. Sullivan also drew three walks.

The Hilltoppers will play a doubleheader against the Golden Panthers on Saturday with the two contests starting at noon and 2 p.m. CT respectively.

Softball beat reporter Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.