Western Kentucky University was one of two Kentucky schools to earn a series sweep in its opening series of the season. In our second opening weekend review post we’ll look at the Hilltoppers.
BGSU no match for Hilltoppers’ offense: Seven different WKU batters hit at least .300 in the opening series of the season, highlighted by senior Matt Rice‘s .538 performance with seven RBI and three runs scored. Outfielders Matt Borgschulte, Jared Andreoli and Ryan Hutchinson each hit over .400 in the series as well. Perhaps influenced by the new NCAA mandated bats, no Hilltopper homered in the series, but the team did tally eight doubles and three triples. Even without the power surge WKU scored 32 runs in the series.
Perkins anchors new weekend rotation: WKU had to replace two weekend starting pitchers this season, but sophomore left-handed pitcher Tanner Perkins, who spent parts of 2010 in the weekend rotation, made his case to be the new WKU ace with six shutout innings Friday. Perkins struck out five batters, walked two and surrendered just two hits in the game. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Taylor Haydel struggled in his Saturday start, but senior Brian Edelen, the team’s fourth starting pitcher, recorded three scoreless innings of relief Sunday.
Freshmen excel in limited action: Sunday starting pitcher Justin Hageman was the only freshman to see extended playing time on the weekend, but WKU head coach Chris Finwood did let six freshmen make their collegiate debuts. Hageman earned a win in his first collegiate start on Sunday after surrendering three runs in five innings. Freshmen relievers G. J. Strauss and Austin Clay recorded three outs without surrendering a run. At the plate freshman infielder Scott Wilcox was 1-1 in two games, and freshman outfielder David Simmons was 0-1 in one game. Freshman outfielder Jordan Cessna also made his debut as a defensive replacement.
Roundup of the first Sunday of Kentucky college baseball in 2011:
The University of Louisville finished off a perfect weekend at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge with a 3-0 win over Minnesota. UofL redshirt sophomore starting pitcher Mike Nastold surrendered just one hit in three shutout innings in his first appearance since 2009. Freshman right-handed pitcher Chad Green earned the win in his collegiate debut after surrendering one hit in three shutout innings and striking out one. After usual closer Tony Zych saved each of the Cards first two wins of the weekend, senior right-handed pitcher Gabriel Shaw pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his first save of the season. Freshman designated hitter Ty Young tallied two RBI in the game. (Box Score)
Western Kentucky University finished off an opening series sweep of Bowling Green St. with a 12-3 blowout win on Sunday. Freshman right-handed pitcher Justin Hageman earned the win in his collegiate debut after surrendering three runs, two of which were earned, on seven hits in five innings. Hageman struck out three batters and walked three. Sophomore designated hitter Matt Borgschulte was 4-4 with one RBI and two runs scored. Junior center fielder Kes Carter and senior catcher Matt Rice each tallied three hits in the game, and Carter scored three runs. Every WKU starter tallied at least one hit in the game. (Box Score)
The University of Kentucky finished an abysmal weekend in Charleston, S. C., with a 3-1 loss to Miami of Ohio despite a career-high 13 strikeouts from junior right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer. Meyer surrendered two runs, one of which was earned, on three hits in seven innings and walked three while striking out 13. The Cats mustered just five hits on offense with two going to sophomore first baseman Luke Maile. UK had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Maile was thrown out at home trying to scored on a ball that was misplayed by the Miami right fielder. Junior shortstop Taylor Black tripled and scored the only UK run on a wild pitch in the fourth inning. (Box Score)
UNC Asheville finished a three-game sweep of Murray State University with a 7-6 win Sunday. The Breds were done in by four errors, which contributed to five unearned runs for UNC Asheville. Murray St. senior right-handed pitcher Jake Donze surrendered four runs, one of which was earned, on five hits in five and one-third innings while striking out two and walking two. Freshman right-handed pitcher Cameron Finch took the loss in his collegiate debut after surrendering three runs, one of which was earned, in two and two-third innings. At the plate Breds junior second baseman Travis Isaak was 2-5 with two RBI, and sophomore shortstop Paul Ritzheimer was 2-4 with a run scored. UNC Asheville scored five runs in the sixth inning despite recorded just one hit in the frame. (Box Score)
In the completion of a game suspended in the ninth inning Saturday, Eastern Kentucky University senior closer Ryne Purcell blew a save against Pepperdine, which rallied to win the game 9-8 in the bottom of the 11th inning. EKU redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Matt Fyffe took the lost in his first appearance since 2009. (Box Score)
EKU senior right-handed pitcher Stephen Hefler surrendered just one hit in six innings, but his effort wasn’t enough to propel the Colonels to victory in a 3-1 loss to Pepperdine. Hefler surrendered one unearned run while striking out five and walking one. EKU took tied the game at one with a single run in the top of the eight inning but immediately surrendered two runs in the bottom of the inning. EKU junior shortstop Richie Rodriguez was 3-4 with two stolen bases in the game. Senior right-handed pitcher Jim Clancy was credited with the loss after surrendering two runs in one and one-third innings. (Box Sc0re)
Morehead State University appeared on its way to its first win of the season but blew a 6-3 lead in the eighth inning of a 9-6 loss to Western Carolina in the series finale. Morehead St. sophomore left-handed pitcher Garrick Whittle surrendered three runs, one of which was earned, on five hits in five and two-third innings. Whittle struck out seven batters and walked five. Western Carolina scored six unearned runs in the eighth inning off junior right-handed pitcher Matt Robertson, who was done in by five Morehead St. errors in the inning. The Eagles tallied eight errors in the game. Junior catcher Taylor Davis was 3-5 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored for the Eagles. (Box Score)
Hitter of the day: C Taylor Davis (Morehead St.)
Stats: 3-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
Honorable Mention: Matt Borgschulte (WKU), Kes Carter (WKU), Matt Rice (WKU), Richie Rodriguez (EKU)
Pitcher of the day: RHP Alex Meyer (UK)
Stats: 0-1, 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 13 SO
Honorable Mention: Stephen (EKU), Chad Green (UofL), Mike Nastold (UofL), Justin Hageman (WKU), Garrick Whittle (Morehead St.)
In the third Western Kentucky University post in the “offseason position battle” series we will look at the Hilltoppers’ vacant first-base position:
The departed — Infielder Jake Wells, a 2010 senior, started all but the first six WKU games of 2010 at first base. Wells was one of just four Hilltoppers to start all 58 games in 2010. He batted .312 with two home runs and 41 RBI on the season. Wells scored 42 runs and boasted an .802 OPS. The first baseman committed six errors on the season and finished 2010 with a .988 fielding percentage.
The returning candidates — Junior infielder Casey Dykes was the only other Hilltopper to record a start at first base in 2010, earning the nod in the first six games of the season. Dykes is listed as a “C/UTL” on the WKU roster and made 45 starts at third base in 2010, so head coach Chris Finwood may look elsewhere for his infield cornerstone. Sophomore Blake Crabtree made the final seven games of the 2010 season at third so Dykes could make a position change…Sophomore catcher/infielder Ryan Huck didn’t appear at first base in 2010, but Finwood suggested during the fall world series most of his playing time would come there this season. Huck batted .287 with seven home runs, 30 RBI and 24 runs scored in 2010 as a freshman, so WKU needs to get his bat in the lineup if at all possible. He is blocked behind the plate by All-Sun Belt Conference catcher Matt Rice.
Newcomers to watch — Incoming freshman infielder Jordan Cessna excelled during WKU’s fall practice according to the school’s media relations department. At 6-1 he could conceivably fill in when Huck catches or serves as the designate hitter…In a news release recapping the fall World Series WKU also highlighted Canadian freshman infielder Scott Wilcox as a standout in fall practice. At 6-0 Wilcox could also fill in at first base…Freshman right-handed pitcher and infielder Brian Doering was listed as a corner infielder when he signed with WKU in 2009. Doering was named first-team all-state by the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association after his senior season at Dupont Manual High School.
Wildcard — WKU boasts a plethora of outfielders with 11 players listed on the roster who can play the position. If Huck gets most of the playing time at first base, head coach Chris Finwood could try one of his surplus outfielders at first base when Huck catches. Junior college transfer Ryan Hutchison is 6-4 and could fit at first base. Sophomore outfielders Matt Borgschulte and Monte Ketchum each appeared in at least 41 games for WKU in 2010, so Finwood could be looking for a way to get them into the Hilltoppers’ lineup. If Finwood wanted to give Rice some time off from catching at 6-3 he might profile well as a first baseman as well.
Western Kentucky University tied its game against Tennessee with a base-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth inning, and then won on Blake Crabtree‘s first career hit in the tenth. Crabtree, a redshirt freshman infielder who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the tenth, drove home junior designated hitter Kory Petri on a no-out, bases-loaded single to give WKU a 5-4 win. Redshirt sophomore right-handed reliever Rye Davis earned the victory after pitching a scoreless tenth.
Sophomore center fielder Kes Carter was 3-5 with a RBI and two runs scored in the game, and junior catcher Matt Rice was 2-4 with an RBI. Freshman right fielder Matt Borgschulte also drove in a run for the Hilltoppers. Freshman right-handed starting pitcher Taylor Haydel took a no decision after allowing two runs in five innings. WKU improved to 9-3 on the season. (Box Score)
BluGrass Baseball POG: Kes Carter — Carter’s two-out RBI double in the ninth inning brought the Hilltoppers within one and kept the rally alive. Carter has been WKU’s breakout star this season and is batting .429 with one home run, 12 RBI and eight runs scored on the season.
Western Kentucky University picked up its first win of the season with a 13-0 blowout victory over Kent State University Saturday. Freshman left-handed pitcher Tanner Perkins did his best Taylor Rogers impression with six shutout innings in his collegiate debut to earn the win. Perkins allowed four hits and struck out six while walking none. Freshman relief pitcher Taylor Haydel pitched three perfect innings with three strikeouts for his first save.
The Hilltoppers were led by sophomore first baseman Casey Dykes, who was 3-4 with three RBI and two runs scored. Freshman right-fielder Matt Borgschulte added four RBI and junior catcher Matt Rice added two RBI. Each of the first six WKU batters in the lineup scored at least two runs. (Box Score)
BluGrass Baseball POG: Tanner Perkins — Saturday was the day of the freshman pitcher in Kentucky college baseball. Like Taylor Rogers before him, Perkins pitched six shutout innings in his debut. He even did Rogers two better by walking none and striking out six batters.