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WKU softball sweeps conference opener

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Picking up its first series sweep on the road since 2015, WKU Softball claimed its conference opening series over Middle Tennessee with a pair of victories on the day. Brittany Vaughn’s three-run home run in the first game and two-RBI double in game two helped the Hilltoppers to wins of 6-4 and 2-0, respectively. The WKU pitching staff produced strong outings all weekend, allowing just four runs across the series.

“I thought we played good defense and really hit when we needed to and that our pitchers had great performances in the circle,” head coach Amy Tudor said. “At the plate, we also had some players with outstanding days.”

“I think defense set the tone for us this weekend,” Tudor continued. “Obviously when you’ve got a good defense behind you, your pitching looks better and pitchers are more confident.”

The Hilltoppers are now 16-9 on the season and 3-0 in Conference USA. Additionally, the sweep of Middle Tennessee was the first of both Kathryn Downing’s and Coach Tudor’s time on The Hill.

GAME 24: WKU 6, MIDDLE TENNESSEE 4

Wasting no time getting on the board, WKU Softball owned a 4-0 lead after its opening frame at the plate. Kara Brewer led off the game taking a walk from her former Columbia State teammate, Gretchen Greer. Brewer proceeded to steal second during Tommi Stowers’ four-pitch walk. Two batters later, Brittany Vaughn sent her team-leading sixth home run of the season over the left field wall, giving WKU a 3-0 lead with one out in the frame. After Taylor Proctor walked, MTSU went to the bullpen. Haylee Towers went on to reach on a fielder’s choice and ultimately scored on a Kelsey McGuffin double to centerfield for a 4-0 WKU lead.

Middle Tennessee responded in the bottom of the frame tallying two runs of its own to cut the Hilltopper lead in half.

Both sides posted a scoreless second inning as the Hilltoppers only sent three batters to the plate while the Blue Raiders were shutdown with back-to-back strikeouts with the bases loaded.

WKU got back to work in the top of the third frame as Jordan Mauch led off with a single through the left side and went on to steal her first career base. Proctor went on to knock a double to left center field to score Mauch. Proctor went on to take third on a wild pitch and proceeded to score on a Towers single up the middle, extending the WKU advantage to 6-2.

The Blue Raiders tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning before Kelsey Aikey relieved Towers in the circle and stranded a pair of Blue Raiders on the base paths.

In the bottom of the seventh, MTSU led off with a double but the next three batters were sent back to the dugout in order. Aikey registered her second strikeout of the day to get the first out in the frame before fielding a grounder and tossing over to Towers at first for the second out. Taylor Childress recorded the final out of the game, handling a flyout in right field.

Towers earned the victory in the circle, finishing the day with 5.1 innings pitched and eight strikeouts. The freshman is now 5-5 on the season.

McGuffin went 3-for-3 on the day for her first multi-hit game on the year. Vaughn’s three RBI day was her fifth multi-RBI game of the 2017 campaign.

“I was really happy for McGuffin to finally put some of those pieces together that she’s been working on,” said Tudor. “This weekend, I thought we had some big swings by a lot of different players.”

GAME 25: WKU 2, MIDDLE TENNESSEE 0

After five scoreless innings of play in the second half of the day’s doubleheader, WKU broke the cycle and put up a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning. Brewer got things going with a single to right field and moved to second during Paige Carter’s pinch-hit appearance. Mauch followed with a four-pitch walk. Vaughn stepped up to the plate with two down and sent a standing double to right center field, allowing both Hilltopper runners to score for a 2-0 lead.

Middle Tennessee would be held scoreless for the second time by Kathryn Downing in the circle as the senior went the distance. Downing is now 9-2 on the season and has six career complete-game shut outs and four on the 2017 campaign alone. Downing carried a one-hitter into the sixth inning before the Blue Raiders tallied two more hits in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Brewer knocked two of WKU’s four hits in the game in the Hilltoppers’ lead-off spot. Mauch and Vaughn accounted for the other two.

“We set the tone early and I think sweeping a team, no matter who you’re playing, is always difficult.” Tudor stated. “I thought everyone had good focus for 21 innings and that’s definitely our goal.”

Spring break play resumes on Tuesday for WKU Softball when the Hilltoppers open three-straight days of play in Alabama with a single game at Samford. On Wednesday and Thursday the Red and White will visit Jacksonville State and Alabama A&M, respectively.

WEEKEND SCHEDULE
Saturday | Noon CT at Middle Tennessee | W, 3-0
Sunday | Noon CT at Middle Tennessee | W, 6-4
| 2 p.m. CT at Middle Tennessee | W, 2-0

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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