BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU Baseball has an opportunity for its second ranked victory
in four days when the Hilltoppers head to Nashville for a midweek contest at No. 15
Vanderbilt. First pitch of the Tuesday, April 10 matchup with the Commodores will be
at 6:30 p.m.
In a 7-1 victory at No. 13 Southern Miss on Saturday, head coach John Pawlowski’s
club claimed its first win over a ranked team since a 7-3 game at No. 3 Louisville
on April 22, 2015.
Vanderbilt leads the all-time series 62-33-2, with the first game between the two
clubs a 2-0 WKU victory in 1913. In the 98th edition of the rivalry on the diamond,
the Hilltoppers look to break a three-game losing skid dating back to 2014, when
they defeated the Commodores 3-2 on Feb. 25.
On that day, host Vanderbilt was ranked No. 4 in the country, and WKU held on for
the win after getting out to a 3-0 lead in the fifth. Scott Wilcox went 2-for-5 with
two RBI, while Hunter Wood went 2-for-3 with the other RBI. Trevor Lowe went 3-for-4
and Philip Diedrick went 2-for-4, each with one run scored.
Starter Josh Bartley went a career-high six innings and allowed two runs, while
allowing only three hits and striking out four. Then, the relief trio of Jackson
Sowell, Brandon Allen and Ian Thompkins fired three scoreless to cap the game.
Los Angeles Dodgers top pitching prospect Walker Buehler started for the Commodores
and took the loss, allowing three runs in six innings on nine hits, while striking
out five. Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, who was the No. 1 overall pick in
the 2015 MLB Draft, led off and went 1-for-3 with a runs scores, as well as two
walks and one strikeout.
In the most recent matchup – on March 14, 2017 – Vanderbilt defeated the Hilltoppers
by a score of 8-1, in a game that featured temperatures in the 30’s with some snow
flurries. WKU took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second with three consecutive
singles by Kevin Lambert, Colie Currie and Ty Hogan.
But the Commodores struck for two unearned runs in the bottom half of that inning
off starter Jeff Ciocco to take the lead for good. The hosts added one in the fifth,
then five more in the seventh.
This year, No. 15 Vanderbilt stands with a record of 19-13, including 7-5 in SEC
play. Before winning the final two games vs. Georgia this past weekend, the
Commodores were on a six-game losing streak.
Vanderbilt has dropped four straight midweek games, although the most recent one was
a bit hairy. On April 3 at Middle Tennessee, the Commodores were trailing 4-3 going
into the eighth inning, then hit a grand slam in the top of the eighth to take a 7-4
lead. But before the bottom of the eighth could be completed, bad weather hit
Murfreesboro and the Blue Raiders did not want to make an effort to finish the
Therefore, the score reverted to the 4-3 mark from the end of the seventh inning,
which would be the final.
Freshman lefty Jake Eder has started seven games for Vanderbilt this season, all of
them midweek contests. He boasts a 4.08 ERA and a 1-3 record with 32 strikeouts in
28.2 innings, but also a .188 batting average against.
Outfielder J.J. Bleday leads the Commodores with a .372/.467/.526 sash line, but has
missed the past seven games. Otherwise, utility player Austin Martin is slashing
.340/.469/.437 with a team-high 26 runs and 13 stolen bases.
One of Vanderbilt’s strengths is its team fielding, as the .984 percentage ranks
second in the nation. The Commodores have made only 18 errors in 32 games, compared
the 36 by their opponents.