WKU set to play MTSU in 1st conference matchup

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

WKU Softball (15-6) will begin Conference USA play with a four-game away series against Middle Tennessee State University (18-17) April 16-18.

WKU was originally scheduled to open C-USA play against Marshall, but the series was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test in WKU’s Tier 1 testing group. It is still unknown when the series will be made up.

The Hilltoppers are looking for some momentum after losing 5-2 to the No. 5 Florida Gators over the weekend and dropping an exhibition game against Canada’s Softball Olympic Team, a matchup that saw former Hilltopper and British Columbia native Larissa Franklin play against her former head coach Amy Tudor.

Franklin played all 50 games for WKU during the 2015 season and hit a two-run home run during the exhibition against her former team.

“Being able to play against Team Canada was an awesome opportunity for our program and we are grateful for that opportunity,” Tudor said after the game. “It was great to see Franklin and for the team to see one of our former all-time greats.”

{{tncms-inline account=”Larissa Franklin” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Never would have thought I’d step on the field with WKU again after 2015. In a different uniform this time but still so special. <a href="https://t.co/QCdxc2Hek3">https://t.co/QCdxc2Hek3</a></p>— Larissa Franklin (@lfranklin19) <a href="https://twitter.com/lfranklin19/status/1381080444179992578?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 11, 2021</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/lfranklin19/status/1381080444179992578″ type=”twitter”}}

 

In its last three non-exhibition games, WKU has scored four runs and were shut out 1-0 at home by Eastern Kentucky on April 7.

WKU has batted .198 during that span and left 25 runners on base. The Hilltoppers’ on-base percentage was a respectable .329 during that period due to a large volume of walks.

“With COVID, I think a lot of teams are going through this so obviously we didn’t make the adjustments tonight but hopefully this will get us back in the swing of things and we can get a little more consistent with playing games,” Tudor said after the loss to Eastern Kentucky.

While the Hilltoppers have played strong top-10 SEC opponents in Kentucky and Florida during this stretch, WKU’s bats will need to thaw out before the team heads to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

WKU’s pitching, however, should not be an issue. Redshirt senior Kelsey Aikey currently holds a 2.95 ERA over 61.2 innings and tied her career-high of 13 strikeouts in WKU’s loss to Eastern Kentucky.

Aikey’s performance moved her up to third all-time in program history for strikeouts. Redshirt junior Shelby Nunn has also proven to be a dependable option for Tudor, as she holds a 2.90 ERA and 1.48 WHIP.

WKU enters the series on Friday as the only team in C-USA to have not played another C-USA opponent. The Hilltoppers did sweep UAB in three games March 20-21, but the results did not count towards the C-USA record.

MTSU currently holds a 4-4 record in C-USA competition, placing the Blue Raiders third in the East Division.

Middle Tennessee was picked to finish fourth in the East Division in the C-USA Preseason Coaches Poll. Two Blue Raiders were named to the C-USA Preseason All-Conference Team, graduate students Lexi Cushing and Summer Burgess.

First baseman Cushing currently leads the team with three home runs and shortstop Burgess is slugging a solid .496. Sophomore outfielder Kelci Hill currently leads the Blue Raiders in slugging percentage at .523 and was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle in Middle Tennessee’s win against Marshall on April 11.

The Blue Raiders have been led by solid pitching from senior Amber Baldwin and junior Corrina Dodd. The right hander has constructed a 2.77 ERA over 68.1 innings, and Baldwin has put together seven complete games along with a 1.21 WHIP. The two have combined for 71 strikeouts.

First pitch from Murfreesboro will come at 6 p.m. on Friday.

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