BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — A career day from Hunter Wood helped WKU Baseball tally 19 hits and produce a double-digit, 14-4 victory Saturday afternoon vs. Jacksonville State at Nick Denes Field. The senior catcher reached base twice via base on balls, and cleared the bases twice via homerun — including a grand slam in the seventh inning to put the game away for the Hilltoppers (3-3).
Wood led the way with six runs batted in, but six others in the WKU lineup added multi-hit games, including Kaleb Duckworth with a team-high three base-knocks against the Gamecocks (3-2). Colie Currie matched Wood with three runs scored and also added a round-tripper of his own, a two-run homerun in the sixth. In the fourth inning, Currie hit the team’s first triple of the season to left-center field and scored on a Duckworth single on the next pitch.
With head coach John Pawlowski flipping the Saturday and Sunday starters from opening weekend, junior righty Paul Kirkpatrick took the mound for WKU and went six innings – the longest outing by a Hilltoppers’ pitcher on the young season. Kirkpatrick allowed four runs – three earned – while walking none and striking out two. Evan Acosta picked up a scoreless, three-inning save, allowing only three baserunners to go along with two strikeouts of his own.
“Looking down the stat sheet at the hits and runs, but we also did a lot of different things. We stole a couple of bases, we ran a squeeze, we hit-and-ran a few times,” head coach John Pawlowski said. “Today was really the first time where our guys could relax a little bit and play some aggressive baseball from an offensive side of it. That was great to see because our guys are working hard and this team showed signs of success.”
1. Hunter Wood finished the contest with a career-high six runs batted in, which was the eighth time a Hilltopper has reached that plateau since 2005, and the first time since Matt Payton vs. New Orleans on April 10, 2009. His multi-homerun game was the 31st since 2005, and the first such effort since Danny Hudzina at Mississippi State on March 10, 2015. The grand slam was WKU’s first since Anderson Miller at FIU on April 17, 2015.
2. In all, Wood, Colie Currie, Kaleb Duckworth, Steven Kraft, Thomas Peter, Nathan Methvin and Ray Zuberer III had multi-hit games. Of the 12 Hilltoppers who had an at-bat on the day produced at least one hit. Wyatt Featherston, Bryson Smith and Marshall Smith all had their first hits on The Hill. WKU fell one knock shy of reaching 20 for the first time since March 15, 2011 in an 11-6 victory vs. Belmont.
3. Bryson made his first career start at shortstop, ending a 59-game consecutive game streak by Steven DiPuglia. In addition to his first hit, the freshman also walked, scored two runs and executed a suicide squeeze play to plate a run in the second inning. Marshall entered the contest as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, catching two pop-ups with runners on second and third.
Play of the Day
On the defensive side, infielder-turned-left fielder Steven Kraft made a fourth-inning diving catch on a Payton Young line drive in the left-center field gap to rob the Gamecock of an extra-base hit. Also, with a JSU runner on first base in the ninth inning, the Smith brothers combined to turn a game-ending, 4-6-3 double play (to first baseman Grayson Ivey).
What’s Up Next
With the series tied 1-1, the Hilltoppers and Gamecocks will face off Sunday at 1 p.m. in the rubber match. JSU probable pitcher Derrick Adams will throw from the left side, while WKU senior Cody Coll looks to build upon his opening weekend start vs. Valparaiso, when he went five innings, giving up only one earned run in a no-decision.
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