WKU baseball splits series with Northern Illinois


Arthur H. Trickett-Wile

WKU redshirt junior outfielder Ty Crittenberger (3) makes a swing during the first round of a double-header against the NIU Huskies Saturday, March. 4, 2023 at Nick Denes Field. WKU won the first match 9-8.

Camden Bush

WKU Baseball hosted the Northern Illinois Huskies in a four-game series March 4-5. The Hilltoppers split the series 2-2 with the Huskies after doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday. 

The Hilltoppers had a very up-and-down weekend against NIU. The teams were originally supposed to face off Friday for the first game, but inclement weather forced the teams to play twice Saturday and Sunday. 

“I would have rather won two games today than I would have the two games yesterday.” Head Coach Marc Rardin said. “Today just shows more about teams at the time.”

WKU claimed victories in both games Saturday, winning the first game 9-8, and the second game 7-5. Northern Illinois took both games Sunday with final scores of 18-10 and 6-5.

All four games were full of suspense and many featured constant lead changes and momentum swings.

The top of WKU’s batting order thrived all weekend long, with huge performances from redshirt junior Ty Crittenberger, senior Tristin Garcia and graduate Drew Reckart.

The Hilltoppers downfall over the weekend was its bullpen pitching, which struggled in just about every game.

“We didn’t pitch the way we needed to and that just started the avalanche of getting into a bullpen that was already thin and not throwing enough quality pitches,” Rardin said. “And then them just taking advantage of errors and walks and getting two out hits, and it just kind of just the avalanched from there.”


Game 1

The Hilltoppers started the weekend off strong with a 9-8 victory over Northern Illinois in their first contest Saturday. 

Crittenberger led a WKU offense that tallied 13 hits in the contest. Crittenberger had two hits, including a home run, and came around to score three times. 

Senior Dalton Mesaris picked up the win in relief for the Hilltoppers after the starter only lasted three innings. Mesaris tallied four scoreless innings and struck out three. 

Garcia got the Hilltoppers off to a quick start with a two-RBI double to give WKU a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Crittenberger added to the lead in the second with a solo homer to make the score 3-0.

The Huskies responded in the top of the third with two solo homers to cut the deficit to 3-2. The Hilltoppers followed with a huge fourth inning in which they put up five runs. An RBI HBP, sac fly, single and two-RBI double gave WKU an 8-2 lead. 

Junior Aidan Gilroy added to the Hilltoppers lead in the fifth with an RBI triple to make the game 9-2. 

Northern Illinois attempted to make a comeback, scoring three in the eighth, followed by three in the ninth. The comeback fell short as WKU closed out the game in the ninth to claim a 9-8 victory. 


Game 2

WKU capped off Saturday’s doubleheader with another win over Northern Illinois in a 7-5 contest. 

Crittenberger was once again at the head of WKU’s offensive attack along with Garcia. Crittenberger tallied three hits and three RBIs.Garcia went 4-4. 

Junior Lane Diuguid got the start for WKU and put together a solid performance. Diuguid pitched three scoreless innings, striking out four and only allowing one hit. 

Both offenses were quiet until the bottom of the third when Crittenberger knocked in a run on a groundout to give WKU a 1-0 lead. 

NIU answered with single runs in the top of the fourth and fifth innings to take a 2-1 lead. That lead did not last long as WKU put up two runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to take a 5-2 lead. 

The Hilltoppers added to their lead with two more in the eighth, making the game 7-2. The Huskies once again tried to mount a comeback in the ninth, but failed to complete it. Despite a three-run homer in the inning, WKU claimed a 7-5 victory. 


Game 3

WKU dropped the first of two Sunday games to the Huskies 18-10 in a high-scoring seven-inning game. 

The Hilltoppers led 7-0 at one point, but NIU put together a huge comeback to claim their first victory of the series. 

Despite the loss, Garcia put together another big performance, tallying two hits, two RBIs and two runs. 

WKU pitched six players in the seven inning game. Five of the pitchers allowed at least two runs. The only pitcher to not allow a run was third-baseman Matthew Meyer who pitched .2 innings once the Hilltoppers got down big. 

Garcia gave the Hilltoppers an early lead with an RBI single in the first. Later in the inning, WKU made it a 2-0 game with an RBI sac fly. 

The Hilltoppers had a huge second inning, scoring five runs to take a 7-0 lead. The Huskies walked in three runs in the inning.

Northern Illinois responded in the third with an RBI single, followed by a two RBI single to make it 7-3. 

The teams traded runs in the fourth to keep the WKU lead at four. Each team scored twice in the inning to make a 9-5 game. 

Northern Illinois’ offense exploded in the fifth inning for seven runs to make it 12-9. The Huskies scored in a variety of ways in the inning, including two RBI singles, two bases loaded HBPs, a fielder’s choice, a sac fly and an RBI triple. 

The Hilltoppers cut the deficit to 12-10 in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single. However, this did not last long as the Huskies offense exploded again in the seventh for six more runs. 

The scoring included a three-run homer and handed the Huskies an 18-10 win in the seven-inning game. 


Game 4

The Hilltoppers dropped the final game of the four-game series to Northern Illinois 6-5 in extra innings. WKU mounted a comeback to send the game to extra innings after trailing 5-1, but ultimately lost in the tenth inning. 

Reckart put together a solid performance, despite the loss. Reckart went 3-4 at the plate and walked once.

Senior Devyn Terbrak started the game for WKU and pitched five innings. Terbrak gave up three runs but only one was earned, and struck out seven. 

The Huskies grabbed a quick lead with a two-RBI single in the top of the first to take a 2-0 lead. WKU answered with a run of its own in the bottom of the second on an RBI single by senior Ricardo Leonett, making it 2-1.

Both offenses were then quiet until the top of the fifth when NIU added another run on an error to make it 3-1. The Huskies proceeded to add two more runs the following inning on an RBI single and an error to take a 5-1 lead in the sixth.

Graduate Kirk Liebert cut into the deficit in the bottom of the seventh with a two-RBI triple, making it a 5-3 game.

Gilroy came up with a huge two-out two-RBI double in the eighth to tie the game 5-5. 

The Huskies pushed across a run in extras with a sac bunt in the top of the tenth making the score 6-5. 

The Hilltoppers failed to score in the bottom of the inning and Northern Illinois claimed a 6-5 victory and a series-split. 


The Hilltoppers will host Belmont University Tuesday, March 7 in their next matchup. The game will begin at Nick Denes Field at 3 p.m. CST.


Sports reporter Camden Bush can be reached at [email protected] .