In the fifth of the season review post series we’ll look at Western Kentucky University, who was ranked in the top 25 for much of the season before slumping to a six-place Sun Belt Conference finish. The Hilltoppers finished the 2010 season at 35-23.
- Hitter of the year: C Matt Rice — Rice led the Hilltoppers in batting average (.369), home runs (10), RBI (65) and on-base percentage (.446). The junior catcher, a mechanical engineering major, excelled in the classroom as well and has a chance to become WKU’s first ever Rhodes Scholar. Rice was named the BluGrass Baseball first-team all-state catcher and started each of WKU’s 58 games.
- Pitcher of the year: RHP Matt Ridings — The senior ace’s season ended on a heartbreaking note with an injury in his final start that led to Tommy John surgery this week, but Riding’s performance in 2010 was outstanding. Ridings led WKU in wins (9), ERA (3.01), strikeouts (90), innings pitched (92.2) and batting average against (.218) in route to being named a Louisville Slugger third-team All-American. The Sun Belt pitcher will look to earn a late-round draft selection despite the injury and rehab his way back to a professional career.
- Season high point: A 24-8 drubbing of in-state rival University of Kentucky on April 20 improved WKU’s record to 28-12 on the season and appeared to put WKU on track for an at-large NCAA tournament bid. The Hilltoppers were for one night at least the second best team in the state and on the verge of stepping out of the spotlight of UK and UofL.
- Season low point: Following the UK win, WKU finished the season in a 7-11 slump, culminated by a heartbreaking 9-8, 10-inning loss in the first round of the Sun Belt tournament. WKU could not rebound from the defeat and was eliminated in its next game with a 7-3 loss to FIU.
- Miscellaneous: Second baseman Matt Payton was named a finalist for the Lowe’ Senior Class award and batted .354 with seven home runs, 55 RBI and 63 runs scored…Sophomore outfielders Jared Andreoli and Kes Carter had breakout campaigns with identical .341 batting averages…Redshirt sophomore closer Rye Davis saved nine games and struck out 63 batters in just 49.2 innings pitched.