WKU takes down Blazers in non-conference matchup

WKU softball players stand on the foul line during the national anthem before the game against UAB Saturday, March 20, 2021.

Jake Moore

WKU Softball (13-4) began its three-game series with Conference USA rival Alabama-Birmingham (13-12) on Saturday, splitting a doubleheader in a three-game series that will not count towards conference play records.

The Blazers came into Bowling Green sporting a 13-10 record on the season and a 9-6 record against WKU all-time. UAB should prove to be a good measure of the kind of talent WKU will be facing once the Hilltoppers enter conference play starting on April 1.

Game 1 – WKU 9, UAB 1

The Hilltoppers had gone 3-3 over their last six games and were looking to find some consistent play. Redshirt senior Kelsey Aikey got the start for the seventh time this year and pitched five innings of one-run baseball, picking up two strikeouts to push her career total to 506.

WKU got on the board in the bottom of the first after a sacrifice fly from redshirt junior Jordan Thomas allowed redshirt senior Paige Carter to score. Thomas took a nasty pitch to the hand earlier in the at-bat but didn’t let it get the best of her. 

The Hilltoppers would add another run in the bottom of the third after redshirt sophomore Taylor Davis stole her sixth base of the year and then scored from second off of a double from redshirt junior Kendall Smith.

Redshirt freshman Taylor Sanders would then swat a three-run home run to left center, her fifth of the season, to make it a 5-0 ballgame. WKU wasn’t done scoring, as redshirt freshman TJ Webster singled to bring fellow redshirt freshman Brylee Hage home after Hage hit the Hilltoppers’ second triple of the year to cap off a five-run third.

WKU would tack on two more runs in the fourth after redshirt sophomore Jordan Ridge placed a perfect sacrifice bunt to allow Taylor Davis to score. UAB would then miss a pick-off attempt at second that allowed Kendall Smith to score from third, giving WKU a 8-0 lead and the threat of a run-rule victory. 

UAB would not go down easily, as a runner scored from third on a single to keep the Blazers alive for one more frame. The Hilltoppers entered the bottom of the fifth up 8-1 but still managed to end the game early thanks to a walk-off single from Taylor Davis. 

Taylor Davis had herself a four-hit game, Paige Carter, Kendall Smith and TJ Webster all notched two hits, and Davis and Webster both swiped two bags each in a true team victory for the Hilltoppers.

Game 2 – WKU 7, UAB 6

Redshirt freshman Katie Gardner started the second half of the doubleheader, just the second start of her career. She pitched two and one-third innings before being relieved by Shelby Nunn, who pitched two and two-thirds innings and picked up three strikeouts. Redshirt sophomore Kennedy Sullivan, who did not play in the first game of the day, took over for Nunn in the sixth to finish up the game.

UAB struck first with a three-run home run in the top of the second to put pressure on the Hilltoppers, but WKU responded in the very next frame with a grand slam from Paige Carter, her fifth home run of the season, to take a 4-3 lead.

The Blazers loaded the bases in the top of the third and scored on a sacrifice fly to tie the score at 4-4, and WKU responded in kind in the bottom of a third with a two-run no-doubt home run from Taylor Sanders, her second of the day and sixth on the year, to put the Hilltoppers back in the lead 6-4.

UAB would score again in the fourth due to a throwing error after a single and an RBI double to tie the game up 6-6, and that is where the score would remain until the bottom of the seventh when Paige Carter drove in Maddie Bowlds with a two-out bases-loaded single to win the game 7-6. It was the second walk-off of the day for WKU.

WKU will return to the dirt at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday to finish out the series against the Blazers. WKU will then face no. 9 Kentucky at home on Wednesday, March 24 at 6 p.m. CT.

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