WKU Softball drops first home game of the season against No. 10 Arkansas

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Marshall Canupp

Hilltoppers Softball’s senior outfielder Taylor Davis (6) slides home avoiding the tag of the University of Arkansas Softball’s catcher to put a run on the board during their matchup on March 21st at the WKU Softball Complex.

Wyatt Sparkman, Sports Editor

WKU (21-5, 5-1 C-USA) lost its first home game of the season to the No. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks (20-5, 2-1 SEC) 8-1 Monday night at the WKU Softball Complex. The Hilltoppers were previously 13-0 in Bowling Green to start the year.

“Arkansas has a great resume. They’re a well coached team, offensively a powerhouse, they check all the boxes as far as being a quality opponent,” WKU head coach Amy Tudor said. “I thought we did good scoring early, [we] scored first, should have probably got two out of that first inning, but we took one… They are a powerhouse, one through nine. So we did a good job of that. Obviously, it’s not the results that we want, but there are a lot of good takeaways.”

Fifth-year Senior Shelby Nunn started in the circle for the Hiltoppers. She pitched 5.1 innings, allowing three runs on the day. Junior Katie Gardner relieved her in the sixth, tossing one inning and allowing five runs. Redshirt freshman Kelsie Houchens finished out the day for the Hilltoppers.  

“Shelby did a great job,” Tudor said. “She hung two pitches to one of the best hitters we’ve probably seen. The first home run, the girl’s hitting .571 for a reason, and then the other home run was last week’s [SEC] Player of the Week. Two elite players, and you just can’t miss on those players.”

Nunn won C-USA Pitcher of the Week early in the day following her stellar performance in WKU’s series against the UTEP Miners. She set a career-high 12 strikeouts in the Friday matchup while allowing zero runs in all three games. She finished the series pitching 12 innings with 17 strikeouts and an astonishing 0.00 ERA. 

Arkansas redshirt junior Chenise Delce started on the bump.  She pitched 4.1 innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out five Hilltoppers. Redshirt senior Mary Haff relieved Delce in the fifth inning, throwing 2.2 innings while allowing no runs.  

Junior Taylor Sanders went 1-for-3 at the plate, batting in the only run of the game for WKU. Arkansas redshirt senior Danielle Gibson 2-for-2, hitting two home runs on the night.

WKU took the home field advantage early with Nunn sitting Arkansas down in order. Fifth-year senior Bailey Curry doubled to lead off the bottom of the first before freshman pinch runner Maddie Poschke came in. Senior Taylor Davis singled to put runners on the corners. 

Poschke was thrown out at home plate after a wild pitch, but Davis scored the run of the game later in the inning on an RBI single from junior Taylor Sanders, giving WKU an early 1-0 lead. 

The Razorbacks responded in a hurry with a lead-off home run in the top of the second from redshirt senior Danielle Gibson to tie the game at 1-1. WKU put a runner in scoring position but left them stranded to end the second.

Both teams failed to get anything going in the third. Nunn got herself out of a bases-loaded jam with a lineout while WKU put two runners on base to no avail. The fourth inning was the same story with Arkansas leaving a runner stranded while WKU went three up, three down. 

After a slow fifth frame, sophomore Hannah Gammill gave the Razorback’s their first lead, smashing a home run with a runner on first to give them a 3-1 lead. Gardner relieved Nunn and weathered the storm, keeping the score at 3-1 to end the top of the sixth.

Arkansas extended its lead in the top of the seventh. After an error and a single put runners on first and second, Gibson bombed her second home run of the day. Redshirt senior Linnie Malkin followed later in the inning with a two run shot of her own to give the Razorbacks a 8-1 lead. WKU went down in order in the bottom of the seventh to end the game.

“Something we can really learn is throughout the game we obviously have to hit,” Davis said. “We can’t really expect our pitchers to strikeout everyone, and I think that’s kind of like our thing – how can we make the pitcher’s job easier. If we can get better on our situational hitting and just doing whatever we can to make their lives easier and less complicated and how to stay in the game throughout… how can we produce more runs.”

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