BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — A trio of homeruns – including a game-winning, two-run shot by Thomas Peter in the eighth inning – propelled WKU Baseball to a 4-3 victory Saturday afternoon vs. Valparaiso at Nick Denes Field. Following Kaleb Duckworth’s walk-off on Opening Day, it was the second-consecutive night a Hilltopper hit a go-ahead, game-deciding dinger.
With the game tied, 2-2, Peter jumped on a 3-1 fastball that cleared the left field wall and landed in the WKU bullpen. Colie Currie – who led off the inning with a bunt single, well-placed over the outstretched arm of Crusader pitcher Dirienzo – scored on the play. The center fielder started the bottom half of the first innings with a solo shot, which sliced just inside the left field foul pole, for his first-career Hilltopper homerun.
Also notching his first career dinger on the The Hill was Ray Zuberer III. It was also the first career hit for the Owensboro native, as he took a 2-1 pitch from Valpo starter Wes Gordon off the light pole in the visitor’s bullpen. With WKU trailing 2-1 at the time, Zuberer’s blast knotted it up and his team would never relinquish the lead.
”Last year we had a lot of trouble winning the 6-7-8-9 innings, so it kind of shows our resilience to come back like this,” Peter said. “It shows a lot of heart from this team. Guys understand what we’re trying to do here, we have a lot of leadership on this team to go along with the new guys. We can learn a lot from each game to help us further down the road.”
“When games are close like this, you learn a lot about your club and how much you have to execute in big situations. We hit three homeruns today and we’ll certainly take it,” head coach John Pawlowski said. “I thought we’ve battled the last two days and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. We’re going to see how mature our club is coming back on Sunday after winning Friday and Saturday.”
1. It was No. 7’s seventh career dinger, with his most recent one also being of the late-game, game-winning, two-run variety; last year on Feb. 28 at Georgia, when Peter turned a 7-6 deficit into an 8-7 lead in the top of the ninth. Peter is currently riding a team-best, eight-game hitting streak dating back to last season, one shy of his career-best mark of eight.
2. Peter had the opportunity to win the game due in large part to the effort of Kevin Elder. The right-hander relieved starter Cody Coll in the sixth inning with two on and none out, working around an infield single to strand the runners by striking out the side. Elder followed with two more scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth, picking up his sixth career victory in the process.
3. Zuberer’s long ball was the first by a true freshman on The Hill since a Kaleb Duckworth solo shot vs. UAB on March 28, 2015. Currie’s lead off homerun was the first by a Hilltopper since Steven Kraft Jacksonville State on March 5, 2016. It was the first time WKU hit three dingers in a game since April 19, 2015, when Anderson Miller, Danny Hudzina and Ryan Church all went yard in a 17-2 victory at FIU.
Play of the Day
With WKU trailing 2-1 and Valpo runners on first and second in the fourth inning, Steven Fitzsimmons lashed a line drive through the box. Shortstop Steven DiPuglia dove to his left and flipped to Ray Zuberer III at the bag, who turned the 6-4-3, inning-ending double play and keep the Hilltopper deficit at one.
What’s Up Next
WKU has already clinched an opening-series win for the second consecutive season for the first time since 2010 and 2011, and will look for its first sweep of a non-conference opponent since Southern Illinois (Feb. 28-March 1, 2015). Valpo probable pitcher Grant Inman started five games in 2016 for the Crusaders, while Paul Kirkpatrick plans to make his Hilltopper debut on the mound.
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