WKU wins nailbiter against UTEP in walk-off fashion

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WKU Athletics

WKU players celebrates after WKU infielder, Taylor Sanders (15) hit a homerun during the game against UAB Saturday, March 20, 2021. 

Wyatt Sparkman, Sports Editor

WKU Softball (20-4, 4-1 C-USA) won a nailbiter against the UTEP Miners (10-16, 1-4 C-USA) in walk-off fashion Saturday afternoon. The win gave the Hilltoppers a 12-0 start at home for the 2022 season.   

Junior Katie Gardner started game two of the series for the home squad. She tossed six innings, striking out four while allowing one run. Shelby Nunn relieved Gardner in the seventh inning, throwing one inning and allowing no runs. 

UTEP freshman Aalijah Alarcon pitched 6.2 innings, allowing two runs and striking out three Hilltoppers. 

WKU senior Taylor Davis went 3-for-3, knocking one run. Junior Taylor Sanders went 2-for-2 at the plate, knocking in the walk-off run in the bottom of the seventh for the Hilltoppers. Sophomore Anna Sample went 1-for-3, hitting her first collegiate home run in the seventh inning for the Miners.

Both pitchers dominated the game through the first two innings. Gardner allowed no hits and no Miners on base while WKU gathered two hits and put two runners in scoring position but nothing came of it. 

Gardner continued her perfect start in the top of the third. Freshman Randi Drinnon advanced to first on an error before moving to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Davis squeaked the ball past the third baseman for an RBI double. WKU led 1-0 after Davis was left stranded on third base to end the third inning. 

Gardner continued perfection in the top of the fourth, only throwing four pitches in the frame. The Hilltoppers put runners on first and second base but Alarcon forced a ground out to end the inning. 

Redshirt junior Pate Cathey ended Gardner’s perfect game with a one-out single in the top of the fifth. Gardner walked the next batter then retired the next two to end the frame and keep WKU’s lead at 1-0. Junior TJ Webster singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth, but Alarcon retired the next three batters to end the inning. 

Sophomore Savannah Favre led off the top of the sixth with a single before advancing to second base on a ground out then third on a wild pitch with two outs. The Hilltoppers held onto their lead with a ground out that ended the frame. WKU put runners in scoring position but didn’t convert them into runs. 

Sample led off the top of the seventh with a solo home run to tie at 1-1. Nunn came on to pitch for WKU and allowed a walk and a two-out single to put runners on the corners. The Hilltoppers escaped with the game tied with a Nunn strikeout. 

Davis singled with one out before junior Brylee Hage walked in the bottom of the seventh. WKU loaded the bases with two outs before Sanders singled past the second baseman, giving WKU a 2-1 walk-off win. 

Up next, WKU will look to keep its hot start at home with a 1 p.m. game against UTEP on Sunday. This game will end the three-game series between both teams.  

Sports Editor Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @wyattsparkman3.