Hilltoppers get crushed by Southern Miss, lose fifth straight


Arthur Trickett-Wile

Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers freshman infielder Brett Blomquist (16) misses a dive-catch on an infield pop-fly Saturday afternoon, March 26, 2022, during a match against the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. Western lost the match 14-2, their second consecutive defeat against the Golden Eagles in the three-match weekend homestand at Nick Denes field in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Camden Bush, Baseball Reporter

The Hilltoppers once again failed to overcome a slow start. Southern Miss destroyed WKU 14-2  at Nick Denes Field Saturday afternoon. This was WKU’s fifth straight loss.

“They played a great game, and we didn’t play well in any phase,” WKU head coach John Pawlowski said. “From a pitching standpoint, from an offensive standpoint, they were just very good today, and we couldn’t really get anything going. We have to find a way to regroup and come back tomorrow and find a way to win one game out of this series.”

The loss brings the Hilltoppers to 9-13 and 1-4 within C-USA play on the year. The Hilltoppers will look to avoid the sweep in the final game of the three-game series on Sunday.

WKU senior Aristotle Peter recorded the loss going 3.1 innings, allowing six runs on eight hits. Southern Miss graduate Hunter Riggins helped lead his team to victory, going 3.2 innings and allowing two runs on two hits. 

The Hilltoppers failed to get anything big going offensively. Sophomore Aidan Gilroy reached base twice on the day to lead the team. 

The Southern Miss batters destroyed Hilltopper pitching, putting up a ridiculous 21 hits and five home runs. Junior Christopher Sargent had an insane day at the plate, tallying five hits, two homers and six RBIs. Sophomore Slade Wilks also put up two homers on four hits.

Peter retired the first batter he faced to begin the game before allowing a single and a hit by pitch. Sargent put the Golden Eagles on the board with a three-run home run to give Southern Miss an early 3-0 lead. The following batter doubled, but Peter retired the next two. Riggins retired the Hilltoppers in order to end the first inning.

The Golden Eagles saw two runners reach base on a single and a hit but failed to score in the top of the second. The Hilltoppers picked up a one-out single but nothing else in the bottom of the second.

Sargent led off the top of the third with his second home run on the day and third of the series. Wilks followed with a home run of his own, to extend the Southern Miss lead to 5-0. The Golden Eagles did no more damage in the inning. Three straight Hilltoppers grounded out to end the third.

The Golden Eagles made it 6-0 in the top of the fourth on an RBI single by junior Reece Ewing, following a walk and a one-out double. 

Back-to-back Hilltoppers reached to lead off the bottom of the fourth on a hit by pitch and walk. Junior Tristin Garcia came around to score on a passed ball later in the inning. Graduate Brian McAuliffe followed with an RBI single to cut it to 6-2. The following two batters walked before junior Jackson Gray grounded out to end the inning.

Both teams failed to score in the fifth despite a single from each side in the inning.

The Golden Eagles failed to score again in the top of the sixth after leading off the inning with a single. The Hilltoppers saw a runner reach on a walk in the bottom of the sixth but failed to do anything else in the inning.

Southern Miss once again started off the top of the seventh with a single. Wilks followed with a two-run blast to center for his second home run of the day. The Golden Eagles then saw six straight runners reach base as the sun played a part in some missed fly balls. Southern Miss put up two more runs in this time to make it 10-2 to end the frame. 

The Hilltoppers went three up, three down with three strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh.

Southern Miss picked up two more runs in the top of the eighth on a two-run homer by junior Will McGillis that made it 12-2. The Hilltoppers went down in order to end the eighth inning.

Southern Miss added two runs in the ninth before sitting down the Hilltoppers in order and locking up a 14-2 victory.

“We’ve got to improve in a lot of areas and get some momentum going,” Pawlowski said.

Up next, the Hilltoppers will look to avoid the sweep in a 1 p.m. game against Southern Miss at Nick Denes Field on Sunday.

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