BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Playing its first doubleheader of the 2017 season Sunday afternoon, WKU Baseball lost both games to visiting Illinois State by scores of 12-4 and 4-3. Top performances by the Hilltoppers included a 5-for-9 day from second baseman Tyler Robertson with two stolen bases, along with a 5.2-inning pitching effort from righty Paul Kirkpatrick in Game 1 when he struck out a career-high seven hitters.
After Saturday’s game between the two clubs was pushed back to a doubleheader, Kirkpatrick started off strong with four strikeouts through his first three scoreless innings. The Hilltoppers were able to get out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of Redbirds’ errors and an RBI single from Steven DiPuglia on the ninth pitch of his at-bat to score Kevin Lambert in the second.
ISU came back to get four runs – but only one earned – off Kirkpatrick by the fifth inning, which led to Kaleb Duckworth knocking a two-run single through the left side in the bottom of the fifth to knot the score, 4-4. But WKU (6-11) was unable to get any more across in the opening contest, as the Redbirds scored eight in the final two frames to claim the 12-4 victory.
Freshman Michael Hicks made his second straight Sunday start for the 3:45 pm first pitch, and allowed three runs in the second inning as ISU took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the third. Back-to-back doubles from Leiff Clarkson and Steven Kraft got the Hilltoppers within 3-1, and Hicks threw two solid innings to cap his outing at four innings and four runs – three earned.
Devon Loomis and Jackson Sowell combined to blank the Redbirds the rest of the way, pitching five innings of five-hit ball with five strikeouts, as WKU mounted a comeback bit-by-bit. Colie Currie led off the bottom of the fourth with a single and ended up on third base after a fielding error by ISU left fielder Jordan Libman. Clarkson brought him in on a sacrifice fly to make the score 4-2, where it would stay until the final frame.
With one out, pinch hitter Chris Rogers walked on a full count and was replaced on the bases by Marshall Smith. The left fielder Kraft followed with an infield single, then Tyler Robertson brought in Smith with a single and represented the game-winning run on first base in the, now, 4-3 game. But back-to-back ground outs by Hunter Wood and Thomas Peter ended the contest and gave the visitors (4-8) a series win.
1. Making his WKU debut Tuesday, March 7 vs. Belmont, Tyler Robertson started all five games this week at second base. He posted a slash line of .526./.609/.632, going 10-for-19 with six runs scored, six runs batted in and four walks, compared to only one strikeout. The Russell Springs native was officially cleared to hit and play the field as he recovered from a pair of broken fingers.
2. Kaleb Duckworth made his return to the lineup, starting both games of the doubleheader at designated hitter after missing three games earlier in the week. Along with the aforementioned two-run single in Game 1, the Henderson native also added a pair of infield singles to the left side. Duckworth went 3-for-7 on the afternoon and reached base via hit by pitch.
3. New to left field this season, Steven Kraft gunned down a pair of Redbirds on the base paths for two outfield assists in the doubleheader. In Game 1, Kraft threw out Joe Butler, 7-6, trying to stretch a single into a double. Then, in Game 2, Kraft hosed Joe Aeilts at the plate, 7-2, trying to score on a single through the left side. The Gainesville, Virginia, native was slotted at the No. 1 spot in the lineup for the ninth and 10th consecutive contests and went 3-for-7 on the day with a double and two walks.
Play of the Day
In Game 2’s top of the first inning, ISU had runners on first and third with one out. With the trail runner taking off on Michael Hicks’ 3-2 pitch, the batter Noah Sadler hit a seed to second baseman Tyler Robertson, who slid towards the bag and stabbed the one-hopper. Robertson shuffled the ball to shortstop Kevin Lambert, who turned the 4-6-3 double play to give Hicks a scoreless opening frame.
What’s Up Next
The Hilltoppers have their usual Monday off, then travel to Nashville on Tuesday to face No. 25 Vanderbilt for a 6:30 pm first pitch at Hawkins Field. The Commodores hold an 11-6 record and also played a Sunday doubleheader, splitting the pair against visiting Saint Mary’s.
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