Lady Toppers extend winning streak to five, day one at Bulldog Invitational in the books

WKU pitcher Kelsey Aikey (12) throws out a strike against Indiana state university on Feb 27, 2021 at the WKU softball field. The Hilltoppers defeated the sycamore 6-0 in the Hilltopper Classic to get their first at home victory.

Jake Moore

WKU softball (8-1) began its weekend at the Bulldog Invitational in Starkville, Mississippi, by picking up a win against the Alcorn State Lady Braves 7-0 and beating the Ball State Cardinals by a score of 4-3 in a nailbiter.

Alcorn State (2-5)

The Hilltoppers relied on the arm of redshirt freshman Katie Gardner who pitched a stellar one-hit game with 11 strikeouts in seven innings and just three walks to keep the Lady Braves at bay. 

It was the first complete game of Gardner’s collegiate career and the third shut-out in a row for the Hilltoppers. Gardner kept Alcorn State hitless through five innings before surrendering a double in the sixth which broke her no-hit bid. 

The Hilltoppers got out to an early lead by scoring four runs in the top of the first and never looked back. WKU’s offense piled on seven total runs throughout the game, one of them coming from redshirt junior Jordan Thomas stealing home in the fourth inning after she had hit a triple. 

Redshirt sophomore Kennedy Sullivan swatted an RBI double in her return to the lineup after missing WKU’s game against Bowling Green State last week due to an injury. Redshirt senior Paige Carter put together a three-hit game to push her batting average to .545 on the season.

The game showed the team’s depth on offense as five different Hilltoppers all had RBIs. Sullivan, redshirt junior Kendall Smith, redshirt freshman Taylor Sanders, redshirt junior Maddie Bowlds and redshirt freshman TJ Webster all contributed an RBI each.

Ball State (2-3)

The second game of the day was a thriller for WKU. The Cardinals jumped out to an early lead with the help of a sacrifice fly in the second and an RBI double in the third to make the score 2-0. 

Kennedy Sullivan would tie the game up by hitting an RBI double and then reached home on an error, and both teams would enter the fourth frame with two runs each. 

Kendall Smith would hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning, her second on the season, to put WKU up 4-2. The Cardinals would not go down quietly, however, and mounted a comeback in the top of the seventh.

Ball State loaded the bases, prompting WKU Softball head coach Amy Tudor to put redshirt senior Kelsey Aikey in to relieve Sullivan, who exited with six strikeouts, three walks, and three hits.

Aikey then proceeded to strike out the first two batters she faced, but walked in a run on a 3-2 count to make the score 4-3. Aikey was not shaken, however, and got the next batter she faced to groundout to put a stop to the Cardinals’ rally and secure the Hilltoppers’ fifth win in a row.

WKU will take the field for two more contests Saturday. The Hilltoppers will play Bulldog Invitational host Mississippi State at 12:30 p.m. CT and a second matchup against an opponent that is TBD in order to decide the championship and consolation matchups for Sunday.

Softball beat reporter Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.