MEMPHIS, Tenn. — WKU Baseball heads to Graceland for 2018 opening weekend, which has
already been affected by inclement weather in the region. Originally scheduled for a
Friday-to-Sunday Feb. 16-18 set at Memphis, the first game will be Saturday at 2
p.m. followed by a Sunday doubleheader beginning at 11 a.m.
Regardless of the outside circumstances, the Hilltoppers will be ready to roll with
a rejuvenated team led by returning senior studs, Colie Currie and Ryan Thurston.
Last season, the outfielder Currie started every game but one (54-of-55) for WKU,
playing every defensive inning in center field except for those nine. Currie tied
then-senior catcher Hunter Wood with a team-best .386 on-base percentage, led WKU
with 24 walks and ranked third on the club with a .311/.386/.495 slash line. The
Jackson, Tenn., native carries a team-best seven-game hit streak into 2018.
Although the WKU rotation for the doubleheader is still up in the air, the lefty
Thurston will start Opening Day against the Tigers. In 2017, he led WKU with 77.1
innings pitched, four wins and 93 strikeouts, starting the first game of all 14
weekend series. Thurston’s 93 punchouts tied Matt Ridings’ 2009 year for ninth
all-time in a single season in program history, while the mark ranked fifth among
C-USA pitchers in 2017.
Other key arms this weekend will be returners Conner Boyd and Ben Morrison out of
the bullpen, as well as incoming breadth of transfers that includes Malcolm Grady,
Michael Martin, Troy Newell, Colby Taylor and others.
In the lineup, the Hilltoppers will miss the bats of the graduated Wood and
outfielder Thomas Peter, but expect a few key returners to make an impact in
increased roles. Up the middle, infielders Kevin Lambert and Tyler Robertson
combined for 94 starts last year, while senior utility man Steven Kraft brings 94
starts and 114 career hits of his own to the dugout.
On the other side of the yard, the Memphis Tigers lost 5-of-7 qualified hitters but
return their three top starting pitchers from a 2017 club that finished 30-29 with
an 8-16 American Athletic Conference record.
Senior outfielder Tyler Webb – who had a .305/.389/.474 slash line in 52 starts,
primarily at the leadoff spot – as well as junior righty Jonathan Bowlan – 3.75 ERA
and a 4-5 record in 18 appearances, including 10 starts – lead the way on their
respective sides of the ball. Meanwhile, JuCo transfer righty Riley Cabral will make
his Division I debut after posting an 11-1 record in 74.1 innings with 100
strikeouts and a 3.27 ERA at Chipola College.
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