WKU Baseball loses seventh in a row to in-state rival Louisville


Marshall Canupp

Hilltopper Baseball’s outfielder Jackson Gray (51) looks to catch the fly ball from the Louisville Cardinal’s batter along with outfielder Andrew Delaney (35) during their match up with the University of Louisville Cardinals on March 29th at Nick Denes Field.

Camden Bush, Baseball Reporter

WKU welcomed their first ranked opponent of the year to Nick Denes Field Tuesday night, the No. 5 Louisville Cardinals. Louisville dominated the Hilltoppers 16-6.

The Hilltoppers brought many fans to the park for the biggest home game of the year, but didn’t pull out the win. The WKU pitching staff failed to get into a groove in a game that lasted four hours. 

The loss brings the Hilltoppers losing streak to seven games. The Hilltoppers have fallen from 9-8 to 9-15 over that period.

“Give Louisville credit, they are a solid team you can see why their lineup is very tough top to bottom,” WKU head coach John Pawlowski said. “I like the way we competed offensively today. There were some positives to take out of every phase of the game, but in order to beat a team like that, you have to play at a high level. We didn’t do that consistently tonight.”

WKU used nine pitchers on the day, all of which allowed at least one run. Freshman Cooper Hellman got the start for the Hilltoppers but failed to make it out of the first inning. Hellman went 0.2 innings, allowing four runs. The Cardinals also had a bullpen day, using eight pitchers. Freshman Kade Grundy got the start and went two innings, allowing one run.  

Freshman Ty Batusich led the way for a Hilltoppers offense that tallied 11 hits on the day. Batusich had two hits, including a three-run home run. The Cardinals recorded 16 hits on the day and had ten different players record a hit. Sophomore Jack Payton led the way for Louisville with three hits and five RBIs.

Hellman retired the first man he faced to begin the game. The following two batters reached on an error and a single. Hellman walked the next batter before allowing a two-run RBI single to Payton. 

The Cardinals picked up two more runs later in the inning with a two-out, two-run RBI single by sophomore Isaac Humphrey, making it 4-0 and prompting a pitching change to redshirt sophomore Bill Duby. Duby retired the first batter he faced to end the top of the first.

Grundy retired the first batter he faced in the bottom of the first before allowing back-to-back infield singles. Sophomore Andrew Delaney knocked in a run on a groundout in the next at bat to make it 4-1. Grundy retired the next batter to end the inning.

Duby recorded a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the second. The Hilltoppers recorded a single but failed to score in the bottom of the second.

Junior Dalton Rushing led off the third with a double. Payton followed with an RBI single. Sophomore Logan Beard followed with an RBI single, giving Louisville a 6-1 lead. Duby struck out the next two to end the top of the third. 

Sophomore Ty Crittenberger led off the bottom of the third with a triple. The following batter walked before Batusich launched a three-run homerun down the right field line. The next two batters went down in order before graduate Brian McAuliffe launched a homer to cut the deficit to 6-5. The next two Hilltoppers reached base but failed to score.

The Cardinals loaded the bases in the top of the fourth with one out. Rushing walked to push in a run before the following batter grounded into a fielder’s choice, pushing in another run. Beard made it 10-5 in the next at bat with a two-run RBI single.

Humphrey followed with an RBI double. The next two batters reached to load the bases before senior Ben Metzinger got hit by a pitch to push in a run and make it 12-5. The Hilltoppers failed to score in the bottom of the fourth despite a lead-off single. 

Louisville put up another run in the top of the fifth on a solo homer by Payton, making it 13-5. The Hilltoppers cut the deficit to 13-6 in the bottom of the fifth on a double and a single that senior Justin Carlin followed with a sac fly RBI.

The Cardinals failed to score in the top of the sixth despite putting two runners on base in the inning. The Hilltoppers went down in order in the bottom of the sixth. 

Both teams failed to score in the seventh as neither side recorded a hit in the inning.

Louisville tacked on two more runs in the top of the eighth on four hits, including a two-run home run by sophomore pinch hitter Drake Westcott. The Hilltoppers failed to score in the bottom of the eighth, despite putting two runners on base.

Louisville picked up another run in the ninth on a sac fly RBI and kept the Hilltoppers off the board in the bottom of the ninth to pick up a 16-6 victory.

“It doesn’t get any easier, but our guys are gonna stay the course and continue to work hard,” Pawlowski said.

Up next, the Hilltoppers will head to Murfreesboro, Tennessee where they will face Middle Tennessee in a three-game set beginning at 6 p.m. CT Friday, April 1.

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