BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU Baseball will look to rebound from suffering a series sweep
over the weekend, when in-state rival Murray State comes to town Tuesday, April 4,
with first pitch at 5 p.m. It will be only the third midweek game so far this season
at Nick Denes Field, where the Hilltoppers are 1-1 in such contests.
In WKU’s last midweek victory March 7 vs. Belmont, Grayson Ivey provided a
pinch-hit, walk-off double in the ninth inning to score Marshall Smith from third
base and give the Hilltoppers a 3-2 victory. It was the team’s second walk-off win
in the first 13 games of the season, following Kaleb Duckworth’s two-run homerun to
defeat Valparaiso on Opening Day.
This will be the first of a home-and-home series against the Racers, with WKU (9-20)
traveling to Reagan Field on April 18. Murray State holds a slim, 65-64-1 advantage
in the all-time series between the two clubs, who have only played once over the
past four seasons; a 5-4 Hilltoppers’ victory in Bowling Green on April 15, 2015.
This season, the Racers stand at 15-12, including a 6-6 record in the Ohio Valley
Conference. Murray State took 2-of-3 against future WKU home-and-home opponent
Austin Peay, while losing 2-of-3 to Jacksonville State, who also edged the
Hilltoppers in a three-game series Feb. 24-26 at Nick Denes Field.
From a 27-29 record in 2016, Murray State returned nine positional starters to the
club for 2017. Right fielder Brandon Gutzler leads the visitors with a
.400/.465/.695 slash line, to go along with a team-best seven homeruns and 35 runs
batted in. John Lollar is projected to make his second start out of 14 appearances
this season. The Racers’ righty is 1-1 with a 7.00 earned run average, and has
allowed 26 hits and 14 runs in 18 innings, but boasts a 23-to-3 strikeout-to-walk
WKU has also received tremendous outputs from their outfield, with center fielder
Colie Currie sitting second in Conference USA with a .483 batting average in league
play. Although the Hilltoppers fell to No. 25 Southern Miss three times over the
weekend, Currie reached base via hit or walk in 8-of-12 plate appearances. Over the
past 16 games, he has raised his season batting average from .213 to .320.
Senior right fielder Thomas Peter has also stayed hot for WKU, as he is tied for
second in C-USA with five homeruns in league play. Of his 13 hits against UAB,
Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss, eight have been of the extra-base variety,
contributing to an .838 slugging percentage in those nine games.
On the mound Tuesday for the Hilltoppers will be righty Caleb Bruner. The
Russellville native has made two midweek starts so far this season after recovering
from an injury that caused him to miss the end of the 2016 campaign. Bruner most
recently toed the rubber at No. 2 Louisville, allowing one run in one inning of work
with one strikeout.
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