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Hilltoppers fall to No. 24 Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In his third career start, freshman Jeff Ciocco held No. 24 Vanderbilt to one earned run in four-plus innings, but WKU Baseball lost to the Commodores by a score of 8-1 on Tuesday evening at Hawkins Field. Catcher Ty Hogan knocked in the Hilltoppers’ run and finished 2-for-3 at the plate.

After Vanderbilt starter Chandler Day retired the first five WKU (6-12) hitters of the game, freshman Kevin Lambert jumped on the first pitch of his at-bat and deposited a single into left field. Colie Currie followed with a line drive to center, which brought up Hogan, who started his fourth midweek game of the season behind the plate. The Lisle, Illinois, native pulled an 0-2 pitch through the left side and Lambert scored to give the Hilltoppers a 1-0 lead in the top of the second.

Ciocco got out of the first inning with a 6-3 double play from Lambert to first baseman Nathan Methvin, then retired the first two Commodores in the second. Two hits and a WKU error later, Vanderbilt (12-6) scored two unearned runs to take a 2-1 lead. The New Jersey native left after facing one batter in the fifth, with a final line of four innings and two strikeouts, allowing five hits and one earned run.

The score would stay close for the next four frames, with the Hilltoppers threatening down 3-1 in the top of the sixth. Tyler Robertson led off being hit by a pitch, then Hunter Wood legged out an infield single. Right fielder Paul Murray showed bunt on the next pitch, but pulled it back and hit a line drive that was grabbed by the Vanderbilt center fielder. Lefty Zach King came in to relieve the starter Day and got the final two outs to end the inning with no runs allowed.

The hosts scored five more in the bottom of the eighth to push the game to its final score, 8-1.

“I’m very proud of Jeff Ciocco, he has been a warrior for us being thrown into the fire – so to speak,” head coach John Pawlowski said. “I thought he did an outstanding job against a very good team. I’ve seen Jeff make a lot of progress this season and that was a big performance from him.”

Topper Notes
1. A key matchup for Jeff Ciocco was against Vanderbilt leadoff hitter Jeren Kendall, who was a Third Team All-American last season and named a 2017 Golden Spikes Award watch list member. Ciocco struck out Kendall swinging in the first, forced a pop up to first base in the second and got him to fly out to right in the fourth.
2. Ciocco’s other punch out on the day was on the 12th pitch of the opening at-bat in the second inning. After Stephen Scott fouled off seven straight pitches, Ciocco painted the inside corner with a fastball to retire the Commodores’ designated hitter.
3. Tyler Robertson (six), Colie Currie (five) and Steven Kraft (five) each extended their team-best hitting streaks in Nashville. Robertson ripped a double down the left-field line in the third inning, and has hit in each of his first six starts for WKU at second base. Currie kept the Hilltoppers’ two-out rally alive in the second with a base hit and Kraft bounced a single up the middle in the fifth frame.

Play of the Day
With Vanderbilt threatening in the fifth inning with runners on second (Julian Infante) and third (Walker Grisanti) and no outs, reliever Evan Acosta got Will Toffey to ground out to Nathan Methvin. The first baseman stepped on the bag for one and noticed Infante nearly to third base, where Grisanti stayed. Methvin threw to shortstop Kevin Lambert, who ran Infante to third and shuffled the ball to Steven DiPuglia for the tag and double play. Although Grisanti scored for the Commodores, it stalled the inning and kept the score within 3-1.

What’s Up Next
The Hilltoppers host their first Conference USA opponent UAB for a three-game series at Nick Denes Field from Friday, March 17 to Sunday, March 12. The Blazers stand at 11-6 this season, but are 1-4 away from home after also falling against an SEC team Tuesday; a 4-0 loss at Auburn.

How to Follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Hilltopper Baseball, follow the program via social media @WKUBaseball on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.

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