WKU walks-off series finale against Charlotte, Riffe the hero in the 10th inning

Freshman Eric Riffe celebrating his walk-off hit in the 10th inning against Charlotte on March 28, 2021. WKU won 17-16 to conclude the first C-USA series of the season. 

Wyatt Sparkman

WKU (11-13), (1-3, C-USA) hosted Charlotte (14-9), (3-1, C-USA) on a cloudy Sunday afternoon to finish their four game series. The Hilltoppers went on to win the final game 17-16 in the 10th inning. 

“It was a wild day. You got two teams that were going at it,” head coach John Pawlowski said. “We were up seven at one point. We were down eight at one point. I just give our team credit. They just kept battling.”   

Sophomore Matthew Meyer went 3-for-5 for WKU with six RBIs and two homeruns in the first and fifth innings respectively.  

“Every time I walk to the plate I have the same mindset that I did at the last at bat and I’m just trying to put a barrel on the ball,” Meyer said.  

For Charlotte, sophomore Austin Knight went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and three doubles.   

Junior Aristotle Peter started the series finale for WKU. He tossed for 2.2 innings allowing six runs in the top of the third inning. 

Sophomore Andrew Lindsey started for Charlotte in the series finale. He allowed four runs on three hits in the first inning before being taken off the mound. 

After Charlotte went three up and three down to start the game, Meyer hit a lead-off homerun in the bottom of the first inning to give WKU a 1-0 lead. Then after a single and a walk, junior Justin Carlin doubled to score two more runs, extending WKU’s early lead to 3-0.   

Charlotte made an early pitching change going to redshirt junior Matt Brooks for Lindsey. WKU was then able to score two more runs on a redshirt freshman TY Crittenberger’s RBI single and a wild pitch by Brooks. WKU led 5-0 after the first inning.

The 49ers did not retaliate in the top of the second frame. WKU extended their lead 7-0 in the bottom of the second after a two-run homerun by graduate Davis Sims. 

In the top of the third frame, sophomore Craig Keuchel led-off with a double. After a walk and a hit by pitch from Peter the bases were loaded for the 49ers. 

Charlotte then scored four runs on three consecutive RBI singles by freshman Gino Groover, sophomore Aaron McKeithan, and freshman Will Butcher. Then sophomore Jack Dragum scored two more runs on an RBI double to cut the WKU lead to 7-6. 

Pawlowski then went to the bullpen to bring out freshman Luke Stofel in relief of Peter. Stofel got WKU out of the top of the third frame. 

Freshman Gus Hughes relieved Brooks to start the bottom of the third frame. WKU did not retaliate going three up and three down. 

In the top of the fourth frame, scored two runs on back-to-back RBI doubles from freshman Nate Furman and Knight to take the lead 8-7. Charlotte then tacked on two more runs from an RBI double by Butcher to their lead 10-7.

WKU then made three pitching changes before landing on sophomore Hunter Crosby. Crosby came in after the previous pitcher gave up five runs to extend the Charlotte lead 15-7 off a walk, an RBI single from freshman Jake Cunningham, and an RBI double by Furman. Crosby got WKU out of the top of the fourth with a ground out.    

WKU cut into the 49ers’ lead in the bottom of the fourth frame. Meyer scored on a throwing error and senior Jack Wilson scored on a fielder’s choice to make the score 15-9 going into the fifth inning of play.

Charlotte went three up and three down in the top of the fifth frame. Then in the bottom of the fifth frame, Meyer hit his second homerun on the day on a two-run shot to cut the deficit to 15-11.

After Charlotte did not retaliate, Carlin led off the bottom of the sixth with a double. Then after the bases were loaded from a hit by a pitch and walk, freshman Carlin then scored from third base on a hit by pitch cut the lead to 15-12.

Meyer then hit a base clearing double to tie the game at 15 apiece. Meyer was left stranded after Wilson struck out. 

Knight doubled to lead-off for Charlotte in the top of the seventh frame but was left stranded on third after Butcher flew out. In the bottom of the seventh frame, sophomore Jackson Swiney gave WKU a 16-15 lead on an RBI double that scored Carlin. 

In the eighth inning both teams went three up and three down.

Cunningham singled to lead off the top of the ninth inning. Then scored to tie the game at 16 apiece on a Knight RBI double. In the bottom of the ninth, WKU loaded the bases with one out. The game then went into extra innings after Swiney grounded into a double play to end the ninth.

After Charlotte had nothing to show for in the top of the tenth inning, WKU was able to load the bases in the bottom of the tenth. Then, freshman, Eric Riffe hit an RBI single to win the game for WKU 17-16. 

“I felt good. We put seven in the first two [innings] I think, so once they put up 15 and essentially we were down eight,” Riffe said. “So, we knew it was going to be a dogfight.”          

Up next WKU starts their first C-USA road series against Florida International on Thursday at 6 p.m. That will be the first game of a four game series against FIU.  

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