BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — A solo homerun by Dillon Nelson in the bottom of the eighth
inning broke a scoreless tie to give WKU Baseball its first doubleheader sweep since
April 2015. The Hilltoppers defeated Northern Illinois by a score of 1-0 in the
second game after defeated the Huskies 9-5 in the first at Nick Denes Field on
Friday afternoon. Righty reliever Ben Morrison closed out both wins, pushing his
save total to three in the early season.
It was the duo of Colie Currie and Chase Larsen that woke up the WKU bats for the 1
p.m. start, as the 2-3 hitters of the lineup each had hits in their first three
at-bats. Larsen knocked in Currie with a triple in the first and a double in the
third to give the Hilltoppers a 2-1 lead halfway through the game.
WKU broke open the scoreboard in the fifth, with four runs on five hits. This time,
it was Currie and Larsen setting the table for Jacob Rhinesmith, who drove them both
home with a triple down the right-field line. Richard Constantine proceeded to knock
in Rhinesmith, then Sam McElreath brought home pinch-runner Luke Brown.
But back came NIU, bringing the score to within 6-4 in the top of the seventh off
lefty starter Ryan Thurston and righty reliever Michael Martin. Thurston exited with
one out in the inning after a quality afternoon on the mound of 6.1 innings, two
earned runs and nine strikeouts. He threw 64-of-108 pitches for strikes and only
walked one batter after the first inning.
The Hilltoppers got all three of those runs back in the bottom half of the frame, as
Colin Butkiewicz hit a double off the top of the right-field wall to bring home
Tyler Robertson and Kevin Lambert. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, the
catcher trotted home on a Nelson sacrifice fly.
Although righty reliever Conner Boyd began the top of the ninth with a four-run
lead, it became a save situation for Morrison when the submariner walked two
Huskies. The closer trotted in from the bullpen and needed only nine pitches to
secure the 9-5 victory.
Righty starter Colby Taylor entered his start Friday with a 0.00 ERA and left it
with one as well. The transfer from Georgia Highlands College scattered four hits
and five walks, but once against kept the most important part of the scorecard
WKU was held hitless until the fifth inning, but were within inches of scoring a run
in the third. Three batters after McElreath drew a leadoff walk, he stood on third
base with one out. Nelson lofted a fly ball to shallow left field and the NIU
defender Kam Smith came up with a perfect throw to nab McElreath at the plate for
the final out.
Both teams threatened in the seventh, as the Huskies loaded the bases on two walks
issued by Taylor and one by righty reliever Jacob Green. But Green was able to
strand all three with a pair of strikeouts. It looked like the Hilltoppers would
push a run across when Rhinesmith tripled once again to lead off the bottom half,
but he was stranded right there.
After a 1-2-3 inning by Green, WKU’s first two batters went down in the bottom half.
Nelson worked a 3-1 count and appeared to walk on the next pitch, but it was called
a strike on the outside corner. On the very next offering, the transfer from Indian
Hills Community College hit a towering, opposite-field homerun over the left-field
fence into the Hilltopper bullpen for a 1-0 lead.
Austin Tibbs got the first out the of the ninth inning, then Morrison came in for
his second save in three hours. This time it only took the Bowling Green native four
pitches to retire the remaining two Huskies, and the doubleheader sweep was
* The last time WKU swept a doubleheader was April 4, 2015, at Louisiana Tech
(W, 15-6; W, 3-1), a span of 11 doubleheaders in-between.
* The last time the Hilltoppers shut out their opponent was a 6-0 victory March
8, 2016, at Tennessee, a span of 102 games in-between.
* The Hilltoppers faced a 1-0 deficit going into the bottom of the first inning
and registered a come-from-behind win for the second consecutive game.
* The three-hit games by Currie and Larsen in Game 1 were the first two for WKU
this season, Currie led the team with six three-hit games in 2017.
* The freshman Brown collected his first-career stolen base as a pinch runner
and added his first-career hit, a single through the right side, later in Game 1.
* Thurston made his 40th start in a WKU uniform to put him alone at 10th on the
all-time records list. He broke a tie at 39 with former Hilltoppers Greg Bartek
(1983-86) and Steve Stemle (1996-98).
* Both Nelson’s (Game 2) and Rhinesmith’s (Feb. 18 at Memphis) homeruns were on
3-2 counts. The Hilltoppers hit only 2-of-47 homeruns on 3-2 counts in 2017.
* In Game 2, WKU won while wearing red jersey tops. The Hilltoppers went 0-13 in
red jerseys in 2017.