HATTIESBURG, Miss. — After a five-day break in the schedule, WKU Baseball resumes
play against the first-place team in Conference USA: No. 13 Southern Miss. The
Hilltoppers and Golden Eagles will play a Friday-to-Sunday set at Pete Taylor Park,
with all three contests to be streamed on CUSA.tv
WKU and Southern Miss did not face each other on the diamond until the Hilltoppers
joined C-USA prior to the 2015 season. In the first-ever meeting, WKU pitched a
combined one-hitter on April 10, 2015, in a 5-0 win in Bowling Green.
In the contest, lefty John Harman (5.2 innings) got the win and righty Kevin Elder
(3.2 innings) earned the save. That game was the Hilltoppers’ most recent shutout in
C-USA play prior to Paul Kirkpatrick’s 4-0, complete game shutout at Rice on March
25, a span of 80 games in-between.
Since then, however, the Golden Eagles have won eight consecutive games over WKU for
an 8-1 all-time advantage, including three-game series sweeps at Pete Taylor Park in
2016 and at Nick Denes Field in 2017.
While the Hilltoppers have not played since a 9-5 victory vs. UTSA on Saturday,
March 31, Southern Miss has played three games in the past five days.
The Golden Eagles (20-8 overall, 6-2 C-USA) took the first two games vs. Rice last
weekend (12-1, 8-7), but were not able to finish off the sweep and fell by a score
of 7-6 on Sunday to the Owls. Then, Southern Miss split a midweek two-game home set
vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, with a 9-8 victory followed by a 7-4 loss.
The trio of Luke Reynolds (.357/.508/.673), Hunter Slater (.348/.416/.589) and Matt
Wallner (.347/.492/.633) lead the Golden Eagles at the plate. They have combined for
94 runs and 87 RBI, and have tallied 45 of the team’s 86 total extra-base hits.
On the mound, righty Nick Sandlin has been one of the nation’s best through the
first half of the season. The reliever-turned-starter owns a 4-0 record with a 1.31
ERA through seven starts; he is holding opposing hitters to a .161 batting average
and boast a 73-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 48 innings.
Lefty Stevie Powers (2.97 ERA, 35-to-7 ratio in 36.1 innings) and righty Walker
Powell (3.56 ERA, 26-to-8 ratio in 30.1 innings) are likely to follow Sandlin in the
On the WKU side, lefty Ryan Thurston has a 3.25 ERA in 44.1 innings of work with a
50-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
However, the senior’s 2-4 record is misleading. Thurston has received 33 runs of
support in seven starts (4.7 average), but 31 of those came in a span of three
starts vs. Northern Illinois, West Virginia and Bowling Green. Meanwhile, the senior
has gotten only two runs of support in the four other starts, including three of the
team’s four times being shut out.
At the plate, Jacob Rhinesmith is one stolen base and one homerun away from becoming
only the second player in Division I to reach the 10-10 mark this season (Bren
Steven Kraft boasts a team-high .360/.467/.480 slash line and 18-game on-base
streak. The senior was 1-of-3 C-USA players to reach base in every game he played in
the month of March (Tyler Frank, Florida Atlantic – 19 games and Dalton Skelton,
Louisiana Tech, 21 games).