WKU Baseball loses intense battle against Kentucky


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 dropped a back-and-forth battle to the #12 University of Kentucky Wildcats 10-8 Tuesday, March 28.

The Hilltoppers welcomed a large crowd to Nick Denes Field in a contest against the in-state rivals. The Hilltoppers gave the fans a reason to cheer by taking an early lead, but they were unable to hold onto it in the later innings of the contest. 

“I mean, teams are going to score,” Head Coach Marc Rardin said. “What you’re trying to do is just limit how much they score and we didn’t do that.”

Former WKU star Jackson Gray played a big part in the victory for his new team the Kentucky Wildcats. Gray hit a go-ahead grand slam for the Wildcats that proved to be the difference in the game.

Despite the loss, WKU’s offense performed very well, recording 11 hits. Junior Tristin Garcia put together another solid performance at the plate, recording three hits on the night.

“The moral victory is we fight,” Rardin said. “We don’t quit. We’re always dangerous. That’s a big word I use with us a lot is we are dangerous, but we’ve got to be more disciplined.”

WKU pitched seven different pitchers in the contest. Graduate Starter Cam Tullar went only 2.1 innings, but allowed only one hit and no runs.

Tullar began the game by pitching a scoreless top of the first, despite a walk. Smith then retired the Hilltoppers in order in the bottom of the inning.

The Wildcats put two men on in the second with a single and a walk, but failed to score. 

The Hilltoppers put men on second and third on a single and a double with one out to begin the bottom of the second. WKU proceeded to score two runs in the inning on a sac fly and an RBI single by freshman Camden Ross, making it 2-0.

Freshman Jack Bennett took over on the mound for WKU in the third and pitched a 1-2-3 inning.  Senior Kirk Liebert added to WKU’s lead in the bottom of the third with an RBI single, making it 3-0. 

UK went down in order again in the top of the fourth.  The Hilltoppers recorded a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning, but failed to add to their lead.

Bennett recorded his third straight 1-2-3 inning in the top of the fifth. The Hilltoppers made it a 4-0 game in the fifth on a bases-loaded balk by the Wildcats.

The Wildcats put a man on in the sixth, but Bennett once again faced the minimum thanks to an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. WKU failed to score in the bottom of the inning, despite an infield single.

UK’s offense exploded for six runs in the top of the seventh to take a 6-4 lead. Kentucky scored on an RBI single and a throwing error to start the innings. Later in the inning, former Hilltopper senior Jackson Gray hit a grand slam to give his new team the lead. 

The Hilltoppers lead off man reached in the bottom of the seventh, but the team failed to score in the inning. 

Kentucky added to its lead in the top of the eighth with four more runs in the inning, making the game 10-4. 

WKU responded in the bottom of the eighth with a solo homer and runs on a wild pitch and a bases loaded walk, making it 10-7. The Hilltoppers had the opportunity to cut even further into the lead, but stranded runners on second and third.

The Wildcats failed to score in the top of the ninth. WKU cut the deficit to 10-8 on a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth, but failed to cut more into the lead as UK claimed a 10-8 victory. 

To continue the season, the Hilltoppers will head to San Antonio where they will square off with UTSA in a three game series March 31- April 2. UTSA currently holds first place in the C-USA standings.


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