CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Colie Currie’s two-out, RBI triple in the seventh inning put WKU
Baseball ahead, then Ben Morrison and the bullpen held the lead for a one-run, 9-8
victory over Charlotte on Sunday afternoon.
Luke Brown and Steven Kraft combined to go 7-for-10 with six runs scored at the top
two spots in the Hilltopper lineup, and Jacob Rhinesmith went 2-for-3 with a homerun
and five RBI. Jacob Green retired the final two batters on eight pitches for his
Things got started straightaway for the WKU bats, as Brown and Kraft led off the
game with back-to-back singles. Rhinesmith drove in one run with a double to
left-center, then Currie grounded home a second run as the Hilltoppers took a 2-0
lead in the top of the first.
Although the 49ers got one back in the bottom half off starter Evan Acosta, third
baseman Nick Brunson saved at least one run with a diving snag of a line drive with
two outs and a pair of runners on base.
In the very next frame, WKU broke the game wide open with a four-spot, as
back-to-back two-out singles by Brown and Kraft scored Brunson and set up Rhinesmith
with another run-scoring opportunity.
And the Shakopee, Minn., native converted, lining a 2-1 pitch into the Charlotte
bullpen in right field for his 13th homerun of the season and second in as many
games at Hayes Stadium. Rhinesmith became the first Conference USA player to reach
13 long balls this season, and the first Hilltopper with at least that many since
Ryan Huck hit 16 in 2013.
But back came the 49ers with four runs in the third to knock Acosta out of the game,
then another two in the fourth to take a 7-6 lead.
After three straight zeroes on the scoresheet, Brunson woke up the bats with two
outs in the sixth. On a 3-2 count against 49er reliever Carson Pinkney, the
Champaign, Ill., native blasted his first-career homerun to tie the game at 7-7.
With the solo shot, Brunson became the 11th different Hilltopper to clear the fence
WKU faced a deficit once again after the bottom of the sixth, started by a leadoff
single off Morrison by Harris Yett. Following a fielder’s choice, baserunner Drew
Ober stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored on a sacrifice fly.
Back came the Hilltoppers once again in the seventh, and once again Brown and Kraft
started the rally with base hits.
With the runners in scoring position and zero outs, Rhinesmith’s third sacrifice fly
of the series scored Brown to tie the game. With two outs, Currie’s third
three-bagger of the year scored Kraft and put WKU ahead 9-8.
Morrison held the 49ers scoreless in the seventh and eighth, despite there being a
baserunner on second and only one out in each of those frames.
After issuing a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth, head coach John Pawlowski
went to Austin Tibbs in relief. The lefty got one out, then the righty Green came in
for the final two outs – a strikeout and a ground ball – to secure the victory.
* WKU improved to 6-2 in the final game of C-USA series, 6-2 when hitting
two-plus homeruns, 4-6 in one-run contests and 5-17 when being out-hit.
* The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Hilltoppers. WKU has not had
a slide of more than five games since the end of the 2016 campaign.
* Luke Brown tied a career high with four hits for the second time in the
series, going 4-for-5 with three runs and a stolen base. The freshman has 15
multi-hit games in the past 25 games, raising his batting average from .195 to
.352 in that span.
* Steven Kraft increased his team-high slash line to .376/.484/.490 with a
3-for-5 day. The senior scored a career-high three runs for the fifth time this
season and now boasts a 12-game hit streak in C-USA play.
* Jacob Rhinesmith tied a career-high with five RBI, with the other such game
coming vs. West Virginia on March 4. The center fielder had eight RBI in the
series after driving in only four in 19 games coming into the weekend.
* “Our guys just did an outstanding job today, really proud of our team. We’ve
had a lot of good wins; this is as good of a team effort as we’ve had all year.” —
Head coach John Pawlowski
* “To win games like this, somebody needs to do something extraordinary or
something they don’t normally do. Look at what Nick Brunson did, he got a high
fastball and turned on it, what a great swing by him.” — Head coach John
With no midweek game due to finals, WKU’s next action will be a C-USA home series
vs. FIU. First pitch on Friday will be at 12 noon due to University graduation, with
game times at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday to follow. The Hilltoppers will
honor their 2018 Senior Class prior to the series finale, with pre-game ceremonies
starting at approximately 12:30 p.m. on May 13.