WKU Baseball wins first game against Kentucky since 2016

Camden Bush, Baseball Reporter

WKU squeaked past Kentucky 7-5 in Lexington on Tuesday afternoon, the program’s first win over the Wildcats since 2016. The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak against its in-state rival.

“I think it gives the team confidence,” WKU head coach John Pawlowski said. “To go on the road and play an outstanding team like Kentucky — to go toe to toe — we were fortunate to get a win today. So I think it can certainly help the confidence in our club and knowing that if we play like this, we’re capable of winning any given night, you can play with anybody on your schedule, and we were fortunate tonight to find a way to get the win tonight.”

WKU sophomore Bill Duby started his first game of the season for the Hilltoppers and went three innings allowing three runs, only one of which was earned, on five hits. 

Advertisement

Kentucky starter sophomore Seth Logue went six innings, allowing three runs on five hits, while recording nine strikeouts.

Ty Batusich, Tristin Garcia and Justin Carlin led the way for the Hilltoppers as each had two hits. Batusich had the biggest hit of the day, giving WKU the lead in the ninth with a two RBI single. Junior Chase Estep led the way for the Wildcats, recording two hits including a homerun. 

“I think one through nine honestly had good at bats all the way around.” Garcia said. “We have a tough lineup hitting and hopefully keeping it up the rest of the year”.

Logue sat down the Hilltoppers in order to start the game. Duby retired the first two Wildcat batters on two pitches in the bottom of the first before allowing a single to senior Jacob Plastiak. Duby forced a flyout in the next at bat to end the first.

Junior Tristin Garcia led off the top of the second with a double. Logue allowed a two-out, two-run home run to left field by senior Justin Carlin to give WKU a 2-0 lead. Logue struck out the next batter to end the top of the second. 

Senior Adam Fogel started the bottom of the second reaching on an error. Fogel third base on two wild pitches. Senior Alonzo Rubalcaba knocked him in from on a single, cutting the lead to 2-1. Senior John Thrasher followed with a double. Duby struck out the next batter to end the inning.

Logue recorded his second 1-2-3 inning of the day to start the third inning. Junior Chase Estep led off the bottom of the third with a home run off the scoreboard in right center field, tying the game at 2-2. Duby retired the next three Wildcats in order to keep the game tied. 

Logue retired the first two he faced in the fourth before WKU retook the lead on a solo home run from junior Jackson Gray. Sophomore Andrew Delaney followed with a double. Logue walked the next batter he faced before forcing an inning-ending groundout.

Duby walked the first batter he faced to start the bottom of the fourth before allowing a single to senior Kirk Liebert. Sophomore Luke Stofel relieved Duby with runners on the corners and no outs. Kentucky tied the game at 3-3 on a failed pickoff attempt at first base. Stofel retired the next two batters before allowing a walk. Estep lined out in the next at bat to end the inning.

Logue retired WKU in order in the top of the fifth, recording his eighth strikeout of the day. Kentucky started the bottom of the fifth with back-to-back singles. The Wildcats took a 4-3 lead on a fielder’s choice by Fogel. Fogel reached third on a wild pitch and fielder’s choice but was stranded there. 

Garcia recorded a one-out single, but that was all the Hilltoppers could muster in the inning. Stofel struck out the first batter he faced in the bottom of the sixth before allowing an infield single to Thrasher. Thrasher stole second in the next at bat. Sophomore Trevor Mott replaced Stofel with two outs in the inning and retired the first batter he faced to end the frame.

Junior Zack Lee started the seventh on the mound for the Wildcats. Lee retired the first two batters before allowing a single to freshman AJ Fiechter and hitting junior Matthew Meyer with a pitch. Sophomore Aidan Gilroy followed with an RBI single to right field to tie the game at 4-4. Batusich followed that with an RBI single to left field, giving WKU a 5-4 lead. Lee struck out Garcia to end the inning.

Mott hit the first batter he faced in the bottom of the seventh and was pulled in favor of junior Mason Vinyard after allowing a single. Senior Daniel Harris IV bunted both runners into scoring position. Vinyard struck out the next batter, but UK tied it up 5-5 on a passed ball. Vinyard forced a pop out to end the inning.

Graduate Daniel Harper pitched the eighth inning for the Wildcats. Harper retired the first batter he faced before walking Delaney. Carlin reached on a single in the next at bat prompting a pitching change to sophomore reliever Austin Strickland. Strickland forced a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Vinyard struck out the first batter he faced before allowing an infield single. Later in the inning, senior Hunter Jump recorded a two-out single. Vinyard stranded runners on the corners with a groundout. 

Strickland struck out the first batter he faced to start the ninth. Meyer was hit by a pitch in the next at bat. Gilroy followed with a single. Batusich knocked a go-ahead two RBI single to left field in the next at bat, giving WKU a 7-5 lead. Strickland ended the top of the ninth with a groundout. 

“I just put the ball in play,” Batusich said. “I saw both pitches, he’s a two pitch guy, so I just [saw] a fastball and then he went back-to-back fast, so I knew it was a good shot that a curveball was coming there.”

Vinyard retired the first two batters he faced before allowing a pinch-hit double. Vinyard ended the game with a groundout, giving WKU a 7-5 win. 

“Outstanding, he’s a warrior on the mound,” Pawlowski said. “I kept checking with him after every inning and asked him if he was okay, and he said ‘coach, I’m fine. I want to be in there.’ You got the ball and you go do what you do and we were fortunate to find a way to win tonight.”

Up next the Hilltoppers will return home to face Hartford in a three-game series starting Friday. 

Baseball Reporter Camden Bush can be reached at [email protected].