MIAMI, Fla. — WKU Baseball rallied from a two-run deficit to turn the tables on FIU
and earn a 5-4 victory on Saturday night. Trailing 4-2 entering the ninth inning,
the Hilltoppers used three base hits and two wild pitches to score three runs
against the Panthers and improve to 4-1 in Conference USA play.
Lefty Troy Newell put forth his best start in a WKU uniform, with career highs of
7.1 innings pitched and nine strikeouts, compared to only one walk. But he was set
to receive the tough-luck decision after allowing four runs — two earned — and nine
hits, including a pair of FIU homeruns.
The first long ball was by center fielder Juan Teixeira in the third that was ruled
to have flied inside the left-field foul pole to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
The Hilltoppers took their first lead of the weekend with two runs in the next half
inning. With the bases loaded, catcher Matt Phipps chopped an infield single up the
middle, then third baseman Sam McElreath avoided an attempted tag by the first
baseman with two outs and was safe as another WKU run crossed home plate.
Newell allowed one run — which was unearned — in the fifth when his own throwing
error moved FIU second baseman Derek Cartaya from first to third before an RBI
single by shortstop John Rodriguez that knotted the score at 2-2.
Still in the game in the eighth, Newell allowed two runs — one unearned after a
fielding error to start the frame — on a homerun by FIU catcher Javier Valdes with
one out. Righty Bailey Sutton came in for the final two outs of the inning as things
began to look bleak for the Hilltoppers, who suddenly trailed 4-2.
But base hits to start the ninth inning by pinch hitter Richard Constantine and left
fielder Ray Zuberer III chased reliever Jose Varela, then first baseman Davis Sims
greeted lefty Will Saxton with an RBI single and an errant throw to the plate moved
two WKU runners into scoring position.
Saxton would not allow another hit in the frame, but a pair of wild pitches scored
both Zuberer and Sims — with a hit by pitch of designated hitter Dillon Nelson
in-between — as the Hilltoppers jumped ahead by a score of 5-4.
For WKU, Sutton got the first out in the ninth before hitting a batter and turning
the ball over to righty Joe Filosa. The graduate senior recorded back-to-back
strikeouts of FIU batters, earning his third save of the season, including his
second in C-USA action.
* Phipps recorded his first-career four-hit game, going a perfect 4-for-4 at the
dish with four singles and one run batted in. He raised his batting average from
.265 to .306 in the process. It was the third four-hit game of the season for the
Hilltoppers, with Sims and Jake Sanford tallying the others.
* Newell’s performance was the longest by a WKU pitcher since lefty Ryan
Thurston went eight innings vs. Louisiana Tech in a 6-1 victory on April 27, 2018.
Newell’s nine strikeouts also matched Thurston’s nine that same game against the
* Constantine’s single to lead off the ninth inning pushed him to a 5-for-9 mark
as a pinch hitter this season. Along with a walk and hit by pitch, the junior from
Huntsville, Ala., has reached base in 7-of-11 pinch-hit opportunities so far in
* WKU pitchers struck out 11, improving to 4-1 when reaching double-digit
* The Hilltoppers walked only one, improving to 2-0 when walking fewer than
* The Hilltoppers improved to 6-2 in one-run games and 7-2 when out-hitting
* WKU is now 3-1 when the starting pitcher goes five-plus innings and 5-3 when
wearing black jerseys.
* The Hilltoppers won their first away or neutral-site game of the season in
* WKU completed its fifth come-from-behind win of the season; all five have been
* “These guys, they didn’t quit, they just kept competing and found a way to win
today. When you can come from behind against a team like that with those arms they
have, what a boost of confidence to our team. Really big win for us on the road —
FIU has had our number — and not only winning the one game tonight, but coming
back tomorrow and winning 2-of-3 on the road would be a really big statement for
us in Conference USA.” — Head coach John Pawlowski.
* “Troy Newell went out there and threw all three pitches for strikes. I’m
really proud of what he did and how he went about his business, that was an
outstanding outing for him … Bailey Sutton did a great job to get us out of the
eighth, but with two really tough [hitters] coming up we made the decision to
bring our closer in there. Certainly, Joe Filosa just attacked and got two punch
outs, really proud of what he did there.” — Head coach John Pawlowski.
WKU and FIU will play a rubber match for Game 3 on Sunday with first pitch at 11
a.m. CT. Starting pitchers for both teams are TBA at this time.