Hilltopper claim first C-USA sweep over Marshall, Stofel earns first career win

WKU sophomore outfield Jackson Gray dives back to second base to avoid being picked-off during a game against Marshall College on April 11, 2021.

Wyatt Sparkman

WKU (16-16), (6-6, C-USA) completed its first Conference USA sweep over Marshall (4-19), (0-12, C-USA) on Sunday afternoon winning 8-1. The respective programs had to play with heavy 20 MPH winds blowing to left field. 

Marshall has dropped its past 12 games following the series against WKU. The Thundering Herd have been swept by Florida Atlantic, Old Dominion and now WKU. 

“Great way for the Hilltoppers to finish off a weekend,” head coach John Pawlowski said. “I really liked the way our club went about their business this weekend. They had a great attitude, great work ethic, a lot of energy in the dugout. Today was a complete game.”   

WKU sophomore Jackson Gray went 3-for-3 in the weekend finale while picking up three RBIs. 

“It feels good. Sometimes you’re hitting the ball hard and the guys are catching it, sometimes you just kind of find the spots and it seems like the past couple of days that’s what I’ve been doing,” Gray said.  

Freshman Luke Stofel got his second career start for WKU.  He pitched for five innings allowing one run while striking out three Marshall batters. He went on to pick up his first collegiate win in this 10th appearance as a Hilltopper. 

“I think we just stuck to the plan Coach P made and we executed everything pretty well, and they got a couple of hits every now and then, but I think we just stuck to the plan Coach P made at the start and we ended up pulling it through,” Stofel said. 

Marshall’s freshman Zac Addkison got the start for Marshall. He tossed for two-thirds of the first inning walking three WKU batters. 

Marshall went three up and three down to start the game. In the bottom of the first frame, Addkison walked three WKU batters before being relieved by junior John Cheatwood. He would get Marshall out of the first inning with no runs allowed.  

In the top of the second frame, freshman Ryan Leitch led off with a single into left field. Leitch then stole second base and advanced to third base on a single. Leitch scored the first run of the game on a ground out by sophomore Kyle Schaefer. WKU did not retaliate in the bottom of the second frame. 

In the bottom of the third inning, sophomore Matthew Meyer led off with a single followed by a senior Ray Zuberer III walk to put WKU runners at first and second base. Sophomore Jackson Gray then singled softly to center field to score Meyer and tie the game at one apiece. 

WKU then took the lead 2-1 when Zuberer scored on a ground out by senior Richard Constantine. Cheatwood got out of the third inning after a fly-out. 

After both teams had nothing to show for in the fourth frame, senior Zach Inskeep led off the top of the fifth inning with a ground-rule double. Inskeep was left stranded after three consecutive outs.

In the bottom of the fifth frame, WKU had back-to-back singles from Zuberer and junior Justin Carlin before Gray batted in Zuberer on a single splitting the second baseman and shortstop for Marshall. 

Carlin then scored to extend WKU’s lead to 4-1 on a groundout by Constantine.

In the sixth inning, both teams made pitching changes as junior Ryan O’Connell relieved Stofel for WKU, and freshman Will Dando relieved Cheatwood for Marshall. Both teams got a runner on base but could not plate them in the sixth frame.

In the top of the seventh frame, Schaefer singled to right field and then reached third base on an error by Carlin with two outs. Schaefer was left stranded after an O’Connell strikeout. Marshall then made another pitching change to start the bottom of the seventh inning as senior Michael Guerrero relieved Dando. 

With two outs, Guerrero hit Gray with a pitch. After Gray stole second base, he scored on an error by freshman third baseman Tyler Cox. Constantine then scored on an RBI single from sophomore Jackson Swiney to extend WKU’s lead to 6-1. Senior D’Andre Knight then relieved Guerrero and got Marshall out of the seventh inning. 

After Marshall had nothing to show for in the top of the eighth frame, WKU tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the eighth frame on a ground out by Carlin and an RBI single from Gray to make the score 8-1.

O’Connell picked up his first save of the season pitching through the final frame of play. Stofel earned his first career win at the collegiate level pitching in five innings. 

“We wanted to run him out there and see what he was capable of doing, and man he filled up the strike zone, attacked hitters, great mound presence,” Pawlowski said on Stofel after the game. “Just excited about what we saw.”  

Up next WKU will host the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders for a four game series at Nick Denes Field on Friday at 5 p.m. 

Baseball beat reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Wyatt on Twitter at @WyattSparkman3