BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU Baseball won twice in the team’s final at-bat on Sunday,
sweeping a doubleheader over visiting Eastern Illinois by scores of 10-9 and 5-4.
The Hilltoppers overcame a 5-0 deficit in Game 1 to win in the 10th inning and
trailed 4-2 in Game 2 before scoring the final three runs over the last six frames.
WKU improved to 5-1 on the season, having reached five wins in seven games or fewer
in 3-of-4 campaigns under head coach John Pawlowski; the Hilltoppers started out
with a 5-2 mark in 2018 and a 7-1 record in 2016.
It is the third doubleheader sweep for WKU in the past two years after not recording
any in 2016 or 2017. In the all-time series against EIU, the Hilltoppers now have
five doubleheader sweeps out of six tries. WKU improved to 14-4 all-time against the
Panthers, with the teams playing on Sunday for the first time in exactly 28 years.
Primed to tally their first win of the season, the Panthers jumped out to a 5-0
start after their third at-bat before WKU began to rally. The Hilltoppers got their
first run of the day on an RBI single by left fielder Ray Zuberer III that scored
shortstop Kevin Lambert, who was making his 112th consecutive start.
WKU got four more in the fourth to tie the contest at 5-5, the key hit being a
two-run double into the left-field corner by junior Dillon Nelson.
Although EIU retook the lead on a two-out, RBI single by left fielder Alex Stevenson
in the fifth, the Hilltoppers responded with another crooked number in the sixth. A
bases-clearing, three-run double into the right-field corner by third baseman Jack
Wilson was the exclamation point to a four-run inning that saw WKU take a 9-6 lead.
But back came the Panthers, who chipped away with two in the seventh and one more in
the eighth to tie it back up, this time at 9-9.
After relievers Jack Lambert and Eric Crawford combined for scoreless ninth and 10th
frames, the Hilltoppers had the opportunity for their second walk-off of the young
season. It was also due in large part to an outfield assist from Zuberer to reserve
catcher Collin Hopkins to cut down a run at the plate in the top of the 10th.
Freshman center fielder Jackson Swiney was hit by pitch to lead off the inning, then
advanced to third with two outs after a sacrifice bunt and ground ball moved him
over. First baseman Davis Sims was intentionally walked by EIU reliever Blake
Malatestinic, who was then replaced by righty Will Klein.
After his first pitch missed, umpire Phil Cundall called a balk on Klein for not
coming completely set before his second offering and Swiney was granted home and a
10-9 victory for WKU. It is the Hilltoppers’ second walk-off win in the 10th frame
in which they did not have a base hit, matching their 5-4 victory over Northern
Kentucky on Feb. 16.
It was WKU who got off to a hot start in the second contest of the day, after
sophomore starter Bailey Sutton fired a scoreless top of the first inning that began
at 4:32 p.m.
In the bottom of the frame, right fielder Jake Sanford lifted a sacrifice fly to
deep center field that scored Nelson to get the scoring started. Then a rundown
started by the Hilltoppers with runners on first and third with two outs ended with
Zuberer stealing home and catcher Matt Phipps eluding a rundown to stand safe on
second base, boasting a 2-0 lead.
The Panthers formulated their rally off Sutton with one run in the second and three
more in the third on six hits. The righty left with runners on the corners and one
out, but both runners were stranded by reliever Dalton Shoemake with a pair of
WKU was able to get even in the bottom of the fourth. After Phipps and Wilson
reached base to start the inning and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch,
they were driven in by an RBI single by infielder Sam McElreath and ground out by
Starting with the fourth inning, Shoemake and the Hilltopper bullpen kept EIU off
the board for the rest of the contest. The Glasgow native posted 3.2 shutout frames
with four strikeouts and only five baserunners allowed.
Following his outing of 4.2 shutout innings on Feb. 17 in a 19-2 victory over
Northern Kentucky, Shoemake has now pitched a team-high 8.1 frames with nine
strikeouts and only seven baserunners allowed.
Relievers Jacob Green and Eric Crawford combined to post zeroes in the seventh and
eighth, setting the table for the offense once again.
Sims began the bottom of the eighth with a single to left-center, then was erased on
a fielder’s choice by Sanford. During the next at-bat with Phipps in the box,
Sanford stole second then moved to third base on a wild pitch. Phipps was able to
lift a 3-1 pitch from Panther starter Michael YaSenka into straightaway right field
and Sanford scampered home for a 5-4 lead.
Righty Joe Filosa came in for the save opportunity in the ninth inning, and although
Phipps allowed his second runner of the game to reach on catcher’s interference, he
erased him on a caught stealing for the 27th out with a seed to the second-base
WKU and EIU wrap up their three-game series with a 3 p.m. first pitch on Monday,
Feb. 25. The Hilltoppers look for their second sweep in as many tries, while the
Panthers aim to avoid falling to 0-6 through two weekends of the 2019 campaign.