WKU Baseball splits FAU doubleheader thanks to Carlin’s walk-off


Credit: WKU Athletics

WKU Junior Justin Carlin attempts to put the ball in play during a game against Marshall College on April 11, 2021. 

Wyatt Sparkman, Baseball Reporter

WKU (24-22), (14-12, C-USA) began its last home series of the year on a sunny Friday afternoon in a doubleheader against the Florida Atlantic Owls (25-21), (14-12, C-USA). The Hilltoppers split the doubleheader as FAU took the first game 6-3 and WKU took a back-and-forth game two on a walk-off by a score of 6-5. 

“Interesting day today, 14 innings of baseball against a very good Florida Atlantic team,” head coach John Pawlowski said after the doubleheader. “Good comeback win in game two … I was really excited for how they battled all day and we found a way to win game two tonight.”

WKU junior Justin Carlin went 3-for-8 in both games hitting a solo homerun in game two to tie the game up. He hit the walk-off RBI single to win game two of the doubleheader. 

FAU freshman Steven Loden went 4-for-7 hitting a three-run homerun in the bottom of the fifth inning in game two to give FAU a 3-2 lead. 

Game 1: FAU 6, WKU 3 

Redshirt sophomore Jake Kates got the start on the bump for WKU. He pitched for 4.2 innings, allowing six runs on 11 hits with six strikeouts. 

FAU sophomore lefty Hunter Cooley made his eighth start of the year in game one. He tossed a complete seven-inning game, allowing three runs on eight hits with one strikeout. 

In the top of the first frame, FAU sophomore B.J. Murray singled with one out followed by a hit-by-pitch to put Owl base runners on first and second. Kates then struck out the next two batters to leave both runners stranded. WKU went three up and three down in the bottom of the first frame. 

In the top of the second inning, FAU got runners on second and third base with a single from senior Bobby Morgensen and a double from freshman Jalen DeBose. After a walk loaded the bases with two outs, Kates struck out Murray to leave all three runners stranded. 

In the bottom of the second frame, sophomores Matthew Meyer and Ricardo Leonett singled for WKU’s first two hits of the game. Both were left stranded after a fly-out. 

After the Owls were retired in order, senior Ray Zuberer III and Carlin hit back-to-back singles in the bottom of the third frame before sophomore Jackson Gray batted Zuberer in on an RBI single to give the Hilltoppers a 1-0 lead. 

Senior Richard Constantine then batted in Carlin on an RBI single to extend WKU’s lead to 2-0. Gray scored on a sacrifice fly from Meyer to make the score 3-0. 

The Owls did not retaliate in the top of the fourth inning, leaving a runner stranded on second base after the fifth strikeout by Kates. WKU followed FAU in the bottom of the fourth inning, leaving a runner stranded on second base as well.

In the top of the fifth frame, FAU loaded the bases on three consecutive singles. Loden cut the lead 3-1 on an RBI single. After a Kates wild pitch plated another run, FAU took a 4-3 lead on an RBI double by sophomore Mitchell Hartigan that scored two runs. Morgensen then extended the Owls’ lead to 5-3 with an RBI single. 

“Some advantage counts we gave up, some mislocated fastballs, against good teams and against good hitters they find a way to get to the barrel and put good swings on it,” Pawlowski said about his team’s pitching performances.

Morgensen scored on an RBI single by FAU junior Jackson Wenstrom before WKU junior lefty Dalton Shoemake relieved Kates. Shoemake helped WKU escape the top of the fifth by inducing a ground-out. The Hilltoppers did not answer the Owls’ huge inning in the bottom of the fifth frame, instead going three up and three down. FAU led by 6-3 after five innings of play. 

Both teams had nothing to show for in the sixth inning as both teams left a runner stranded on first base. 

FAU went three up and three down in the top of the seventh frame. In the bottom of the seventh inning, WKU left Zuberer stranded on first base. FAU won 6-3 as Kates picked up his third loss of the season. 

Game 2: WKU 6, FAU 5

WKU junior Sean Bergeron got the start in game two. He pitched for four innings, allowing three runs on eight hits with one strikeout. 

“I wish I could take that one pitch back, the home run,” Bergeron said about his start. “But I threw strikes, got outs, gave my team a chance to win and kept the game close. Besides that one pitch I’m pretty happy about it.” 

Redshirt junior Matt Sparling made his tenth start of the season for FAU. He tossed for four innings allowing two runs on four hits with one strikeout.   

FAU left two runners stranded in the top of the first inning after a line-out. Zuberer walked to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Gray singled to put two WKU runners on base before Meyer batted Zuberer in on an RBI single for the first run of the game. 

Lambert followed Meyer with his own RBI single to score Gray, extending WKU’s lead to 2-0. Sparling got out of the first inning after Morgensen made a diving catch at the warning track in right field. 

In the top of the second frame, the Owls loaded the bases with one out after two consecutive singles from Morgensen and sophomore Nicholas Toney followed by a walk. Bergeron forced a pop up and ground out to get out of the bases loaded jam. The Hilltoppers went three up and three down to complete the second inning.  

FAU runners reached first and second base before they were left stranded after the ball chopped back to Bergeron on the mound for a ground out. Gray doubled in the bottom of the fourth inning for WKU before he was left stranded on a diving catch by Wenstrom in center field.

Both teams went three up and three down in the fourth inning of play. 

Murray and freshman Nolan Schanuel led off the top of the fifth with back-to-back singles before Loden hit a three-run homerun to give the Owls a 3-2 lead. Redshirt sophomore Mason Vinyard then relieved Bergeron for the Hilltoppers. Vinyard got WKU out of the top of the fifth but not before FAU extended its lead to 4-2 on an RBI double from Wenstrom.  

Freshman Sam Drumheller relieved Sparling to begin the top of the fifth inning. WKU then tied the game at four runs apiece on back-to-back solo home runs by Zuberer and Carlin. 

“I was just going out there with our game plan, trying to hit something hard,” Carlin said after the game. “Trying to find a pitch over the plate that could do some damage.”

Redshirt sophomore Aaron Shiflet relieved Vinyard to start the sixth inning. Both teams were retired in order in the sixth frame. 

Coach Pawlowski made his third pitching change in a row to start an inning, putting redshirt junior Bailey Sutton on the bump in the top of the seventh. The Owls regained the lead 5-4 on a solo home run by Morgensen with two outs.  

In the bottom of the seventh frame, FAU junior Mike Entenza relieved Drumheller. After a lead-off walk, pinch runner junior Junior Coleman stole second base before Zuberer batted him in on an RBI single to tie the game at five apiece.

Zuberer advanced to second base on a wild pitch then advanced to third base on a throwing error. Carlin then batted in Zuberer with a walk-off RBI single after a 10 -itch at bat to give WKU the 6-5 victory.  

“We have a lot of confidence right now, beginning of the year we kinda started off slow but we’re starting to hit our stride right now,” Carlin said. “We have good bats up and down the order and we’re ready to finish out the season the way we know we can play.”

WKU will host FAU for two more games this weekend but the start times for those two contests have yet to be determined due to expected inclement weather.

Baseball beat reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]