WKU Baseball clinch first C-USA series win against FIU


Marshall Canupp

Hilltopper Baseball’s Ty Batusich (9) and Hunter Crosby (39) celebrate after Batusich’s home run hit, during their match up with the University of Louisville Cardinals on March 29th at Nick Denes Field.

Camden Bush, Baseball Reporter

WKU Baseball nearly shut out the Florida International Panthers in a 9-2 victory Saturday afternoon, clinching its first series win since March 5 when it swept Hartford in a three-game series.

WKU’s pitching dominated FIU (10-20, 3-8 C-USA) as its bats continued to produce, giving the Hilltoppers a big series win. WKU has now begun to heat up, winning three in a row and four of its last five. The squad is now 13-17 on the season and 4-7 in conference play.

WKU freshman Cooper Hellman had his best outing of the year Saturday. Hellman went seven scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and striking out five. FIU junior Carlos Lequerica recorded the loss, going five innings and allowing five runs on five hits.

“It’s really easy when I get an offense like I did today with eight runs on the board,” Hellman said. “It just makes my job a lot easier to be able to attack and not really work around people.”

The Hilltopper offense continued to roll, recording eight hits and eight runs on the day. Sophomore Andrew Delaney led the team offensively with four RBIs on two extra base hits. FIU only recorded five hits on the day, failing to get much going offensively.

“Andrew Delaney, in his first at bat, I’m not really sure how high up that ball hit on the batter’s eye,” WKU head coach John Pawlowski said. “Then the next one, the three-run Johnson, that cleared the fence by an awful lot. So some really big swings from Andrew today.”

FIU failed to score in the top of the first despite a single. The Hilltoppers were more successful in the bottom of the inning as graduate Brian McAuliffe gave WKU a 1-0 lead with an RBI single after a hit by pitch. Delaney followed with an RBI double to make it 2-0.

Hellman kept the Panthers off the board again in the second while Lequerica retired the Hilltoppers in order to end the frame.

The Panthers put a man on base in the top of the third but failed to score for the third straight inning. The first two runners reached base for the Hilltoppers in the bottom of the third before Delaney launched a three-run homer with two outs in the inning, making it 5-0.

FIU recorded a lead-off double in the top of the fourth but failed to capitalize, stranding another runner. Lequerica bounced back in the bottom of the fourth, retiring the Hilltoppers in order.

Hellman continued his strong performance in the fifth inning, retiring the Panthers in order. Lequerica got into a groove in the bottom of the frame, only letting one runner on base and allowing no runs.

The Panthers failed to put anyone on base in the sixth inning with Hellman continuing to roll. Junior Jackson Gray gave the Hilltoppers a 7-0 lead on a two-run RBI double in the bottom of the sixth after the first two batters reached base. Sophomore Eric Riffe knocked Gray in with a sac fly later in the inning to make it 8-0.

Hellman returned to the mound in the seventh and cruised through the frame with a three up, three down inning. The Hilltoppers failed to add to their lead in the bottom of the inning.

FIU put men on second and third with a single and a double to start the top of the eighth but failed to score in the inning. WKU added to its lead in the bottom of the frame with an RBI sac fly to bring the score to 9-0 after the eighth.

The Panthers picked up their first runs in the ninth on a double and a couple of errors to make it 9-2 but failed to get anything else going in the inning as the Hilltoppers claimed a 9-2 victory.

“We had a great crowd out today, and I hope they come out tomorrow to support the Hilltoppers,” Pawlowski said.

Up next, the Hilltoppers will look to complete a three-game series sweep of the Panthers on Sunday. The two teams will clash again at 12 p.m. on April 10 at Nick Denes Field.

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