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Engelhardt blasts first career homer, but UAB escapes with series win

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Following a split decision in Saturday’s doubleheader, the Hilltoppers led UAB early from the WKU Softball Complex in the rubber match, but ultimately dropped a 3-2 decision. Sophomore Rebekah Engelhardt put WKU up 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning with her first-career extra base hit in the form of a home run off of the foul pole in left field.

The Hilltoppers moved to an even 20-20 on the campaign with the loss and 4-8 in Conference USA play. UAB improved to 13-21 on the year while climbing to 5-4 in league action.

“We’re disappointed not to win the series but I’m proud of our pitchers’ performances as well as the bottom of our lineup for producing hits this weekend,” Tudor continued. “We kept ourselves in every game this weekend and had several opportunities to put runs across the plate in each of the games.”

WKU’s first threat came in the bottom of the third frame when Kelsey McGuffin led off with a standing double that made its way to the fence in right-center field. Taylor Proctor followed by getting hit by a pitch for the team-leading 18th time this season. Brittany Vaughn advanced both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt before Paige Carter claimed a five-pitch walk to fill the bases with one out. UAB would get the force at home on the next play for a fielder’s choice before the final Hilltopper batter of the inning was called out looking on a strikeout the crowd did not approve of.

With the game still scoreless entering the top of the fourth inning, the Hilltoppers sent all three of the Blazer batters back to the dugout in the span of eight pitches. The third Hilltopper batter in the bottom of the frame, Engelhardt, ended the scoreless draw with one swing of her bat for the 1-0 WKU advantage.

Engelhardt’s knock was the Hilltoppers’ second hit of the day, coming in the bottom of the fourth inning with two outs as she stepped into the box. With a 2-2 count, Engelhardt crushed the sixth pitch of her at bat for the Red and White’s Conference USA-leading 32nd home run of the season.

“I’m thrilled for Beka [Engelhardt] that she hit her first home run, she got a great pitch to hit and sent a liner out,” head coach Amy Tudor said of the sophomore’s long ball.

UAB went on to respond in the top of the fifth inning by opening the frame with a triple and with runners on the corners and one out, Coach Tudor went to the bullpen and Haylee Towers came on in relief of Kathryn Downing after the senior threw 4.1 innings. Before the Hilltoppers could get out of the inning, UAB plated both runners on base along with one more on a sacrifice fly to take a 3-1 lead.

Following two more zeros put up by each side, WKU was able to strike again in the bottom of the seventh inning. Morgan McElroy led off the frame by reaching base on an error. Two batters later, McGuffin singled and advanced to second on another Blazer error, moving McElroy to third. Proctor went on to ground out to second base allowing McElroy to score pulling the Hilltoppers within one but the WKU comeback would fall just short.

Downing took the loss in the circle falling to 11-7 on the season. The senior finished the day with a trio of strikeouts on 72 pitches. In Towers’ 2.2 innings pitched, the freshman struck out a pair of Blazers while allowing just two hits.

The Hilltoppers are on the road all next week with a mid-week tilt at No. 16 Kentucky before heading to El Paso for a cross-division series at UTEP slated to start on Saturday, April 8.

How to Follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Softball, follow the team on Twitter at @WKUSoftball, Instagram @WKU_Softball and Facebook @WKUSoftball.

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