BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Holiday Inn Hilltopper Spring Fling tournament action opened on Thursday with WKU taking down the visiting Illinois State Redbirds, 8-2, from the WKU Softball Complex. A four-run first inning gave the Hilltopper pitching staff all the run support it would need in the win. Three Hilltoppers each registered a pair of RBI in the Thursday-afternoon tilt.
“I think getting this win to open the weekend was huge,” head coach Amy Tudor opened. “I felt like we had a good two days of practice prior to this and I felt like we were prepared and comfortable going into the weekend. Each game our team, especially our freshmen, are growing a little bit. This was a great way to start off our tournament.”
A lead-off walk by Tommi Stowers followed by Brittany Vaughn getting hit by a pitch and another walk from Jordan Mauch loaded the bases in the bottom of the first inning with no outs and WKU capitalized. Haylee Towers knocked a shot at the Redbirds’ third baseman that resulted in the first of three Illinois State errors in the inning, scoring both Stowers and Vaughn. With two outs, Adarian Gray stepped to the plate and sent a shot out to the wall that resulted in a double and scored both Towers and Mauch. Kelsey McGuffin followed and reached on an error by the pitcher, which brought up Rebekah Engelhardt, the Hilltoppers’ ninth batter of the inning. Batting all the through the order, WKU held a 4-0 lead by the end of the first frame.
In the top of the next inning, Illinois State responded with a run of its own to cut WKU’s lead to three at 4-1.
WKU threatened again in the bottom of the fourth inning, ultimately loading the bases, but Illinois State escaped the frame after the Hilltopper runners were left stranded. The Red and White had a pair of runners on again in the bottom of the next frame but again came away scoreless, retaining the 4-1 advantage.
The Redbirds cut their deficit in half in the top of the sixth inning, which was immediately followed by Kathryn Downing being relieved in the circle by Kelsey Aikey with Downing still in line for the win. On the second pitch Aikey threw, the Hilltoppers were able to turn two and regain the momentum. The next batter was caught trying for an extra-base hit and the Hilltoppers were out of trouble.
WKU bats came alive again in the bottom of the sixth as the home squad tacked on four more runs to its lead to put the contest away. WKU loaded the bases before the Redbirds could record any outs and again took advantage of the baserunners. Proctor stepped to the plate and knocked a single into centerfield scoring a pair of Hilltoppers and then advanced to second on the throw home, putting the WKU squad up 6-2. McGuffin recorded her second hit of the year, sending a two-run single up the middle to plate both Proctor and Mauch to account for the final 8-2 score.
“Pretty much all we worked on during our shortened practice week was hitting,” shared Tudor. “I talked with them about stances and other minor things but then the kids got out there and swung the bats well. I thought our pitch selection was pretty great and we had a lot of kids step up in big situations for us today.”
Downing earned the decision in the contest, leaving after 5.0+ innings pitched with five strikeouts. The senior pitcher is now 5-0 on the season. Aikey shut down the Redbirds in the final two innings, allowing just a pair of hits while striking out two.
With the victory, WKU Softball improves to 6-4 on the young season and will take on its next opponent on Friday with Indiana State on the slate for game two of the Holiday Inn Hilltopper Spring Fling.
– WKU opened the game by batting through the order with all nine batters making a plate appearance to take a 4-1 lead into the second inning. The last time WKU batted through the order was April 23, 2016, against Samford when 13 batters made plate appearances.
– Four runs scored in the bottom of the first inning was a new single-inning high for the Hilltoppers.
– The Hilltoppers turned a double play in the top of the sixth frame to preserve a 4-2 lead.
– In the bottom of the sixth inning the Hilltoppers batted through the order again as the top of the order opened the frame. The four-run sixth inning also matched the new single-inning run mark.
Thursday – WKU def. Illinois State, 8-2
Friday @ WKU SOFTBALL COMPLEX
9am – Wright State vs. Illinois State | Livestats
Noon – Indiana State vs. IUPUI | Livestats
3 pm – Indiana State at WKU | Livestats
@ BUCHANON PARK
1:30 pm – Illinois State vs. Austin Peay | Livestats
4 pm – Austin Peay vs. Wright State | Livestats
Saturday @ WKU SOFTBALL COMPLEX
10 am – IUPUI vs. Illinois State | Livestats
12:30 pm – IUPUI vs. WKU | Livestats
3 pm – Wright State vs. WKU | Livestats
5:30 pm – Austin Peay vs. Indiana State | Livestats
@ BUCHANON PARK
9:30 am – Wright State vs. Indiana State | Livestats
Sunday @ WKU SOFTBALL COMPLEX
10 am – Wright State vs. IUPUI | Livestats
12:30 pm – Austin Peay vs. IUPUI | Livestats
3 pm – Austin Peay at WKU | Livestats
All-day passes for this weekend’s tournament games from Friday-Sunday can be purchased for $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger. All-day passes cover Buchanon Park games as well, fans just need to keep their ticket stubs. As always, the Hilltopper flexible season ticket packages are on sale for $25, which includes 25 admittances to WKU Softball games that can be used during the Hilltoppers’ opening weekend on The Hill.
How to Follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Softball, follow the team on Twitter at @WKUSoftball, Instagram @WKU_Softball and Facebook @WKUSoftball.