Valpo spoils Hilltoppers’ hopes of sweep

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Coming off back-to-back wins to open the season, WKU Baseball was unable to complete the sweep against visiting Valparaiso, losing to the Crusaders by a score of 5-2 on Sunday afternoon. Colie Currie went 2-for-4 with a walk and the Hilltoppers’ two lone runs batted in, notching his second straight multi-hit game.

WKU (2-1) began the bottom of the sixth inning trailing 4-0 before Grayson Ivey, Kevin Lambert and Ray Zuberer III loaded the bases with three consecutive singles. One batter later, the lineup flipped and Currie took a 1-1 pitch over shortstop Chad Jacob’s outstretched glove to bring in a pair.

But that would be all for the home team, as Easton Rhodehouse – who gave up the single to Currie to allow two inherited runners from starter Grant Inman – finished with three scoreless innings in relief and four strikeouts. Valpo (1-2) closer Jon Tieman – who surrendered Kaleb Duckworth’s walk-off shot Friday evening – got his revenge, retiring the Hilltoppers’ side 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

“I knew it was one out and I was hoping to put a ball in the gap,” Currie said. “But really just put the ball anywhere and make the defense make a play. I tried to not get under the ball and stay on top of it and hit it hard, and things worked out for us.”

“Today our team was disappointed because we were trying to sweep the series and weren’t able to do that,” head coach John Pawlowski said. “But overall this weekend we learned a lot, and I think the players understand how hard we have to work and how much work we have to do as we move forward.”

Toppers Notes
1. For the second time during the weekend, reliever Conner Boyd replaced the starter with multiple men on base and left them stranded. Boyd took over for Paul Kirkpatrick in the fifth inning with two on and one out, then proceeded to get a fly out and ground out from the Crusaders’ 4-5 hitters. Through the opening series, WKU relievers have inherited 13 runners and allowed zero to score.
2. Logan Weins and Bailey Sutton each picked up their second scoreless appearances of the short season, as the lefty went 1.2 innings and Sutton relieved him with two outs in the ninth and finished the scoreless frame. Freshman and South Warren High School product Michael Hicks made his Hilltopper debut, getting four outs in five batters – but allowing a solo homerun to Nate Palace.
3. Palace was a thorn in WKU’s side all weekend, going 7-for-9 at the plate, but also reaching twice apiece via walks and hit by pitch. The first baseman had three extra-base hits – a double, triple and homerun – to go along with four RBI and three runs scored.
4. Currie and Steven Kraft as the 1-2 hitters have produced thus far for WKU, combining for a .519 on-base percentage. Kraft’s .538 OBP leads the team, while Currie’s five RBI tops the charts. The center fielder is also tied for the team lead with a .750 slugging percentage (tied with Thomas Peter).
5. Peter left the game in the first inning when he was hit in the chin while attempting to lay down a bunt with two runners on base and no outs. He was replaced by Paul Murray in the at-bat, but is expected to return to the Hilltoppers’ lineup this week.

Play of the Day
Leading off the sixth inning Steven Kraft quickly took strikes to find himself down 0-2, but the left fielder laid off three consecutive balls and got a pitch to drive with a full count. Kraft launched a double off the left-center field wall under the printed “370” for his team-leading second double of the weekend. He was unable to move from there, however, as Valpo’s Grant Inman retired WKU’s 3-4-5 hitters in succession.

What’s Up Next
The Hilltoppers will take their 2-1 record to Belmont to face the Bruins on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 4 p.m. Belmont sits at 0-3 after being swept at home against Kent State this weekend. Starting pitchers are TBA.

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

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