WKU powers way to doubleheader sweep of Charlotte

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Following a Brittany Vaughn sacrifice fly walk-off victory to open Friday’s doubleheader with Charlotte, the Hilltoppers kept the bats hot in game two for a 12-5 win that was never in doubt to sweep the day. Sophomore Rebekah Engelhardt led the Hilltoppers across both games with a 3-for-6 outing, including her third home run of the season and career. As a team, the Red and White hit .300 on the day with 15 runs on 15 hits while turning a pair of double plays defensively.

“I’m really proud of our team’s fight in both of today’s game,” WKU Softball head coach Amy Tudor shared. “I felt like we battled in every inning, regardless of the situation, to come out on top to win both of today’s games.”

With the victories, the Hilltoppers climbed to 24-21 overall with an 8-9 mark in Conference USA play. Taking two losses on the day, Charlotte dropped to 23-19 on the year including a 5-9 mark in league action.

After Charlotte advanced runners into scoring position in each of the first game’s opening three innings, Kathryn Downing and the Hilltopper defense responded by stranding all four threatening runners on the base paths. Charlotte finally broke through in the top of the fourth inning after a WKU throwing error, but the Red and White were able to then get out of the bases-loaded jam limiting the damage.

In the bottom of the fourth, the WKU squad evened things up after Paige Carter opened the inning with a triple to right-center field. Vaughn followed with a hit by pitch to put runners on the corners with no outs. Two batters later, Jordan Mauch drew a walk to load the bases. With two outs, Haylee Towers stepped up to the dish and worked a full-count RBI walk to score Carter to knot the game at 1-1 before the 49ers registered the third out.

Sending the 49ers back to the dugout in order in the top of the next frame, the Hilltoppers threatened again in the bottom of the inning. Engelhardt and Carter took a pair of walks to get on board with one away before Kelsey McGuffin sent a hard-hit ball deep to centerfield that the Charlotte fielder was able to get a glove on it, stranding the Topper baserunners.

Escaping another bases loaded jam in the top of the sixth inning, the Hilltoppers took the lead in the bottom of the frame after Mauch led things off with a double down the left-field line before Taylor Childress came on as a pinch runner. Adarian Gray laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Childress to third with the first out of the inning before Towers walked to put runners on the corners. In the box for a pinch hit, Tommi Stowers sent a sacrifice fly deep enough into the outfield to score Childress for a 2-1 lead before Charlotte secured the final out.

Charlotte evened the game at 2-2 with a home run in the top of the seventh inning before the Hilltoppers got out of the frame by throwing out the 49ers’ go-ahead run at the dish.

Entering walk-off territory, Taylor Proctor led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a hit by pitch before moving to third base on an Engelhardt bunt single. Vaughn stepped up to the plate and sent a one-out sacrifice fly to right-center field deep enough to plate Proctor for the walk-off victory to end game one.

Downing went the distance in the circle to climb to 13-8 on the season with her ninth complete game of 2017.

The 49ers struck first again in game two, opening the first inning with a 1-0 lead before WKU came to the plate. With 12 Hilltoppers making a plate appearance in the bottom of the frame, exploded for a seven-run inning. Carter led off with a double and scored the tying run on a Kelsey McGuffin fielder’s choice on which everybody was safe. Four different Hilltoppers registered RBI in the inning including McGuffin, Towers, Proctor, and Vaughn on five hits and a pair of 49er errors.

Charlotte slowly tried to inch its way back after tallying one run in the top of innings two through four with the Hilltoppers adding one run on a solo home run by Engelhardt in the bottom of the third inning. Engelhardt’s blast off of the second level of the parking structure was her third home run in the last six games for as many in her career.

After turning a double play to get out of the top of the fifth inning unscathed, the Hilltoppers added another tally in the run column in the bottom of the frame. Proctor led things off with a walk before Vaughn sent a two-out single to move the catcher to second base. McGuffin followed with an RBI single to right field to plate Proctor for a 9-4 WKU advantage.

Charlotte was able to put up another run in the top of the sixth frame before WKU went back to work at the plate in the bottom of the frame. The Hilltoppers plated three runners in the frame thanks to a pair of back-to-back doubles by Proctor and Engelhardt before Charlotte was able to turn a double play to keep WKU from pushing its advantage to eight runs.

Up 12-5 entering the top of the seventh, the Red and White needed just three outs to secure the Friday sweep of Charlotte. After the leadoff 49er got on board with a single, WKU picked up the first out on a fielder’s choice before the third batter of the frame would get on via an error. On the second pitch of the next at-bat, Gray handled a grounder at the hot corner and stepped on the bag for the force out before firing over to first to turn the double play and close out the victory.

McGuffin, Proctor and Engelhardt each finished with a pair of RBI in game two of the double feature. Vaughn, Towers, Proctor and Engelhardt each tallied multi-hit performances in the tilt as well.

Kelsey Aikey picked up her fifth win of the year (5-3) in the circle with all 7.0 innings on her watch. The freshman fanned four Charlotte batters in her fifth complete-game outing of the season.

WKU will look to sweep the series on Saturday with game three slated for a noon CT first pitch from the WKU Softball Complex.

Friday – 1 p.m. CT vs. Charlotte | W, 3-2
3 p.m. CT vs. Charlotte | W, 12-5

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