BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Led by Michael Hicks in his first collegiate start, the WKU Baseball pitchers limited visiting Ohio to only three runs, but the Hilltoppers lost to the Bobcats by a score of 3-0 on Sunday afternoon.
Hicks pitched 3.1 innings before giving way to Kevin Elder with two runners on in the top of the fourth. The senior reliever retired the next two Bobcats on swinging strikeouts, which closed the line on the freshman from South Warren High School with WKU trailing 1-0.
Five innings from Elder and the final two outs from Conner Boyd combined to finish the contest for the Hilltoppers, limiting Ohio to two runs on four hits – with four strikeouts – over the final 5.2 frames. The WKU bats were unable to get a run across, however, as Bobcats’ starter Michael Klein and relievers Kenny Ogg, Tim Colletti and Jake Roehn combined to shut out the Hilltoppers for the second straight game.
“Kind of a mirror image of yesterday. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get anything going offensively, but give Ohio credit; they pitched extremely well and found a way to win the series,” head coach John Pawlowski said. “Michael Hicks pitched well. He just got himself in trouble by walking a couple of guys, but he’s going to be a good one for us and needs to keep working hard.”
“I felt comfortable because I’ve pitched here a couple times already this season, and it was good to have the crowd behind me,” Hicks said. “I tried to locate my fastball and breaking pitch down in the zone. I got myself in a bit of trouble walking people and getting behind, so I have to throw more strikes and get ahead early.”
1. Sunday marked the first time all season in which WKU did not have an extra-base hit, but Kevin Lambert was able to increase his on-base streak to 12 games to begin his career on The Hill with a walk in the second inning. He stole second base during the next at-bat, his second swipe of the year.
2. Conner Boyd came in for the second consecutive game in another tough situation, with Ohio runners on first and third with one out in the top of the ninth. The junior reliever struck out Nick Bredeson on a 3-2 pitch, then forced Ty Black to foul to Hunter Wood behind home plate. In a team-high six appearances, Boyd has retired all 11 batters he has faced, while stranding all 13 inherited runners.
3. The Hilltopper pitching staff as a whole allowed only 10 earned runs against the Bobcats, matching its mark against Jacksonville State from Feb. 24-26 at Nick Denes Field for the group’s best weekend. WKU boasts a 3.56 team earned run average on Friday, Saturday and Sunday contests combined.
Play of the Day
With the bases full of Bobcats and one run already in during Ohio’s third inning, Ty Black hit a line drive to left-center field on a 1-2 count. Junior Steven Kraft got a jump on the ball, sprinted into the gap and reached up for the catch, saving at least two runs against the Hilltoppers. In total, WKU forced a season-high 13 runners left on base by their opponents.
What’s Up Next
The Hilltoppers have their usual Monday off, host Belmont on March 7, then travel to Richmond, Kentucky, to take on the EKU Colonels the next day. WKU will look to avenge an 11-3 loss at Belmont (5-6) on Feb. 22 in the first midweek game of 2017, and face Eastern Kentucky (6-6) for the first of a home-and-home. Both first pitches will be at 3 p.m. CT.
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