WKU drops series opener to ODU, teams combine for 22 runs

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Credit: WKU Athletics

Head coach John Pawlowski and his infield conduct a mound visit with pitcher Jake Kates against Middle Tennessee on Friday, April 16, 2021. 

Wyatt Sparkman, Baseball Reporter

WKU (24-25), (14-15, C-USA) began its last Conference USA series on the road Friday afternoon against the no. 23 Old Dominion Monarchs (34-13), (20-9, C-USA) in Norfolk, VA. WKU lost a high-scoring affair 14-8.  

Both teams wore purple wristbands during the game to honor Annette Finwood, the wife of Old Dominon head coach Chris Finwood, who passed away on April 1 due to pancreatic cancer. 

Redshirt sophomore Jake Kates got the start on the bump for WKU. He tossed four innings, allowing seven runs on nine hits with two strikeouts. 

ODU junior Tommy Gertner got the start to begin the series. He pitched for four innings, allowing two runs on two hits with six strikeouts. 

WKU senior Kevin Lambert went 2-for-4 batting in two runs while scoring a run himself.  

ODU junior Tommy Bell went 3-for-3, batting in three runs while hitting two doubles and a solo homerun in the bottom of the eighth inning.  

WKU went three up and three down to begin the game. Senior Kyle Battle led off the bottom of the first inning with a double. He advanced to third base on a ground-out then scored the first run of the game on a fielder’s choice to put the Monarchs up 1-0. 

Both teams left runners stranded on first and second base in the second inning. The Hilltoppers stranded their runners with three consecutive outs and the Monarchs left their runners stranded on a fly-out. 

In the top of the third frame, senior Ray Zuberer III got on first base after a hit-by-pitch, then advanced to third base on a double from sophomore Jackson Gray. Both Hilltopper runners were left stranded on a ground-out. 

ODU loaded the bases with no outs after a freshman Carter Trice double, a hit by pitch, and a single by junior Brock Gagliardi. ODU extended its lead to 2-0 after Kates walked a Monarch batter. After a Kates strikeout, ODU added two more runs off of a Tommy Bell RBI double to extend its lead to 4-0. 

Sophomore Ryan Teschko batted in the fourth run of the inning for ODU with an RBI single. Battle then batted another run in with a sacrifice fly, extending the Monarch lead to 6-0. 

WKU answered the ODU five-run inning in the top of the fourth frame with a two-run home run from senior Matt Phipps that cut the Monarch lead to 6-2. ODU did not answer in the bottom of the fourth frame, going three up and three down. 

Redshirt junior Nick Pantos relieved Gertner in the top of the fifth inning. Pantos struck out the first batter he faced before junior Justin Carlin singled. The Hilltoppers loaded the bases with two outs after back-to-back walks by Pantos. 

Lambert then cut the Monarch lead to 6-3 on an RBI single. Pantos threw a wild pitch that allowed senior Richard Constantine to score from third base to make the score 6-4. After a walk, redshirt freshman Joey Rodriguez relieved Pantos. Rodriguez struck out Phipps to get ODU out of the bases-loaded jam. 

ODU loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth frame after a lead-off single by junior Matt Coutney followed by two consecutive hit-by-pitches. The Monarchs extended their lead to 7-4 after Kates hit his third consecutive ODU batter. 

Redshirt junior Collin Lollar relieved Kates with the bases loaded and no outs. Freshman Kenny Levari tacked on a run for ODU with a sacrifice fly, then Trice extended the Monarch lead to 9-4 on an RBI single. Lollar got WKU out of the inning with a ground out. 

Freshman lefty Jacob Gomez relieved Rodriguez in the top of the sixth inning. After Carlin reached first base on a fielder’s choice, WKU got the bats going with two outs. Gray singled followed by a Constantine RBI triple that plated both Hilltopper runners. 

Sophomore Matthew Meyer batted in Constantine to cut the lead to 9-7. After Meyer stole second base, he scored on a Lambert RBI double to make the score 9-8. Junior lefty Jason Hartline then relieved Gomez. Hartline got ODU out of the top of the sixth with a strikeout. 

Gagliardi led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a solo homerun to extend the Monarch lead to 10-8. After a single and a walk, redshirt sophomore Aaron Shifelt took the mound for WKU. 

Teschko made the score 12-8 after he batted in two runs on an RBI single. Levari then tacked on a run for the Monarchs to make the score 13-8 on an RBI single. Junior Connor Stephens then relieved Shiflet. Stephens forced a fly out to end the sixth inning.

Both teams had a runner on first base in the seventh inning, but neither side could plate them. 

Gray led off the top of the eight inning with a single, but he was stranded after three consecutive outs. Bell led off the bottom of the eight inning with a solo homerun pushing the Monarch lead to 14-8. 

In the top of the ninth frame, redshirt freshman Ty Crittenberger singled with two outs followed by a Zuberer single that put Hilltopper runners on first and third base. The game ended on a force out at second base giving Hartline his first save of the season.                 

WKU will continue its series with ODU with a double-header on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. CT.

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