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New-look WKU baseball looks to compete for C-USA title in 2024

Arthur H. Trickett-Wile
WKU junior pitcher Lane Diuguid (41) throws to sophomore Ty Batusich (44) at first base to check a runner during the second round of a double-header against the NIU Huskies Saturday, March. 4, 2023 at Nick Denes Field. WKU won the second match 7-5.

WKU Baseball has undergone a complete transformation each of the last two offseasons and the Hilltoppers are poised for a very strong 2024 season with a reloaded roster.

Head Coach Marc Rardin took the reins of WKU’s baseball program prior to the 2023 season and in just one season has fully shifted the culture. 

The Hilltoppers brought Rardin in from Iowa Western Community College where he coached for 20 seasons. In his 20 years, Rardin proved to be a winning coach, taking home three NJCAA Division I World Series Titles.

Rardin took over after a rough 2022 season in which WKU went 18-36 overall and 7-23 in conference play. 

“I have passion and I know what wins. They [the players] have really gotten into the acceptance of what we’re trying to do.” Rardin said, prior to the 2023 season. 

This quote translated into the 2023 campaign very well as WKU put together its best season in 20 years. The Hilltoppers went 33-26 overall and 16-14 in conference play. 

Expectations for the 2023 team were not very high as even Athletic Director Todd Stewart did not plan to judge Rardin’s success until his second year on the Hill, calling Rardin’s first season “year zero” in terms of team expectations.

However, after a very strong “year zero” Rardin and the Hilltoppers have gained respect in Conference-USA and will be looking to compete for the conference title in the 2024 season.

According to, WKU has the fourth best odds to win the C-USA title of nine teams in 2024. 

Rardin and WKU saw a huge overhaul in the roster between 2022 and 2023. Going into the 2024 season, Rardin will be dealing with an even bigger roster shift. 

“Going into this Spring we have 34 new faces, 34 new spaces.” Rardin said. “So, we had successes last year, but again, this is team 105 [105th year of WKU Baseball]. We have a new group.” 

Despite the loss of many key contributors and a majority of the 2023 team, Rardin has faith in his new ball club.

“We have better pitching and we have more depth in pitching. We’re more athletic and with that athleticism you tend to have a little bit better defense. And our culture is unbelievable.” Rardin said. “I don’t know if it’s a championship culture right now, but we have a tremendous culture of kids.” 

The shift in culture has been a huge point of emphasis by Rardin ever since he arrived on the Hill. 

“I tried to teach our kids there is a ‘campfire culture’, where we can all just get along and it’s a good time, you know, we all love each other.” Rardin said. “Or there’s a ‘championship culture’, which means we can hold each other accountable. Where we are selfless for each other and we have energy for each other. We strive for excellence with each other. And I think that’s what we’re working towards. You know, we already have the ‘campfire culture, they all get along and they all want some, but we are working towards the championship culture.”

While the team will be filled with newcomers, there will be some key pieces returning. The Hilltoppers pitching unit figures to be strong as RHP Mason Burns, LHP Dawson Hall, and RHP Lane Diuguid are all returning after strong 2023 seasons. All three pitchers were tabbed to the C-USA preseason All-Conference team.

“We have a lot of newcomers, but the chemistry is unbelievable.” Diuguid said. “I mean, we’re a big family, everybody gets along and you don’t always get that with every team you’re on. I think we have something special going on here and it’s really great.”

Before the 2024 season, no Hilltopper pitcher had ever been named to the preseason C-USA All-Conference team and WKU had never had more than one player make it in a season.

Burns, who was named one of D1Baseball’s Top 50 Relief Pitchers, added that it seems that the team has “bought into the culture” this year. 

In addition to the roster changes WKU will see in the 2024 season, Nick Denes Field will look a bit different. WKU will be putting up a new video scoreboard and replacing the field’s turf and  seats before the season begins. 

WKU baseball will officially start their 2024 season Friday, Feb. 16 at 3 pm CT. against Bradley.

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