BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Led by one of the best starts by a pitching staff in 33 years,
WKU Baseball looks to carry that success into a four-game series vs. Northern
Illinois at Nick Denes Field. The Feb. 23-25 set will begin with a Friday
doubleheader starting at 1 p.m., with 45 minutes in-between contests; the schedule
for the final two games is currently TBA.
This will be the first four-game series for the Hilltoppers since they swept Albany
from Feb. 27-to-March 1 in 2009.
On the heels of a 4-1 victory over Belmont in the team’s Home Opener on Tuesday,
Feb. 20, the 2018 Hilltoppers became only the second team in the past 33 years to
allow 13 runs or fewer in the first four contests. The other WKU team to do so was
the 2009 club that went 42-20, finished tied for first in the Sun Belt regular
season standings and was one win away from advancing to the Super Regionals.
The Hilltoppers are 3-1 all-time against the Huskies, with the wins being a
three-game sweep Feb. 25-26, which also included a doubleheader. This year’s NIU
team started out 2-1 last weekend at Central Arkansas and did not have a midweek
game that followed.
Four Husky hitters are at or over the .385 mark in batting average, including
outfielder Hunter Bross, who went 4-for-10 (.400) against the Bears with three
extra-base hits (two doubles and a homerun). The NIU pitching staff also impressed,
allowing only three earned runs (10 total) in the three games. Two of the projected
starters, lefty George Faue and righty Michael Lasiewicz, each completed six innings
and combined to give up one earned run (five total).
WKU, meanwhile, will look for its pair of starters to double up on their success in
the opening Friday doubleheader. Lefty Ryan Thurston and righty Colby Taylor will
get the nods, as the two combined to go 10.1 innings and give up only one run at
Memphis. Thurston gave up only one run and struck out seven, but was handed a
tough-luck loss in the 4-0 defeat on Opening Day. Taylor, meanwhile, shut out the
Tigers in his 5.1 frames of work and got the win in a 3-1 team decision.
Faced with a 1-0 deficit in the top of the first inning, WKU bounced right back in
the bottom half to even up the score against visiting Belmont, when Chase Larsen
knocked home Dillon Nelson from third base with a single up the middle. From then
on, a combination of eight relievers kept the Bruins off the board. Each Hilltopper
pitcher got 2-to-4 out, while none faced more than five batters in his appearance.
Michael Martin posted his third scoreless appearance in the first four games and
Michael Darrell-Hicks earned the win, shutting down Belmont in the top of the third
inning before WKU broke the 1-1 tie. Larsen also knocked in that run, which would
prove to be the game-winner, with an RBI ground out that scored Colin Butkiewicz.
With timely pitching and two more runs added on in the sixth, the Hilltoppers won
their fourth-consecutive Home Opener at Nick Denes Field.
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