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Gray’s grand slam secures WKU softball victory

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — For the seventh time in 2017, WKU Softball turned in a come-from-behind victory after an Adarian Gray go-ahead grand slam gave the Hilltoppers a 6-2 lead over Ohio in the bottom of the sixth inning. All six of the Hilltoppers’ runs came in the big sixth frame, helping WKU to its second mid-week game win.

“I thought we came out a little defensively flat, but we picked it up along the way,” head coach Amy Tudor opened. “We kept on getting runners in scoring position and finally towards the end we capitalized. We took advantage of their pitcher’s mistakes and obviously had some key walks before Pudge [Adarian Gray] had a phenomenal hit.”

Coach Tudor and the Hilltoppers improved to 13-9 on the season with the victory and handed the Ohio Bobcats just their third loss on the season (13-3).

After a pair of identical scoreless innings were recorded by both dugouts to open tonight’s mid-week non-conference contest, Ohio got on the board first with a pair of runs in the top of the third frame. The Bobcats would be limited to just three hits the rest of the way by the Hilltopper pitching staff.

Scoreless heading into the sixth inning, the Red and White got things going with a Jordan Mauch double to left-center field. Brittany Vaughn took a free base on the next pitch after getting hit by a ball for the seventh time this season. Haylee Towers sent a hard-hit single into left field to load the bags with Kelsey McGuffin coming to the plate. McGuffin collected a five-pitch walk and the next batter, Paige Carter, took a pinch-hit walk as well to tie the game at 2-2.

“I felt confident despite not scoring until the bottom of the sixth,” Tudor said. “I thought we were putting some good hits on the ball and kept stranding runners out there. Those walks and hit by pitches were key in setting the tone.”

However, WKU wasn’t done there, as Adarian Gray stepped into the batter’s box. After taking a called strike, Gray sent the second grand slam of her debut season to straight-away center, giving WKU a 6-2 lead. Kara Brewer followed with a single before getting stranded on the base paths as the next two Hilltopper batters registered the final two outs in the frame.

“I think that hit was a big-time moment for a big-time player,” Tudor said of Gray’s grand slam. “She had been struggling a little bit at the plate but she got her pitch and did some damage with it, so we’re really proud of her.”

WKU went around the order in the frame as Mauch made two plate appearances in the inning. Additionally, Gray’s grand slam marked the third Hilltopper grand slam of the season.

Towers returned to the circle and, with the help of the WKU defense, sent the Ohio batters back to the dugout in order. The freshman hurler finished with 2.0 innings pitched, two strikeouts and picked up the victory to improve to 4-5 on the season.

Kathryn Downing gave a strong showing before being relieved in the top of the sixth frame, registered five strikeouts on the day and surpassing the 100-pitch mark.

Next up, WKU Softball will spend the weekend in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, as the Hilltoppers open Conference USA play with a three-game series at Middle Tennessee. Action will begin with one game on Saturday followed by a doubleheader on Sunday.

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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