BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU Baseball led from wire-to-wire thanks to a three-run
homerun in the first inning and a triple play turned by the defense in the fourth,
as the Hilltoppers defeated UAB by a score of 5-3 to sweep the team’s Conference
USA-opening series at Nick Denes Field.
It was the first sweep to begin league play since defeating Middle Tennessee three
times from March 15-16, 2013, to open the Sun Belt portion of the schedule. It was
the first sweep of a C-USA opponent since defeating UTSA three times from April
“I thought our pitchers did an outstanding job. Reece Calvert went out there
and pitched well, then both Kenny LaPierre and Troy Newell came in and got it done
in situations with guys on base, and Joe Filosa finished that game off. Great job
by those guys, they gave us a chance to win. They made big pitches in big
situations,” head coach John Pawlowski said.
Just as the Blazers jumped out on Saturday, WKU did the same on Sunday.
After a 1-2-3 top of the first by starter Reece Calvert, Jackson Swiney and Davis
Sims both singled on the first pitch they saw from UAB starter Tyler O’Clair. Up
came right fielder Jake Sanford, who saw ball one go by, then launched his sixth
homerun of the year to left-center field to give the Hilltoppers a 3-0 lead only
four pitched into the bottom of the first.
“Good things happened to this team this weekend, and I’m proud of the way we
played … We had the same lineup every day with the exception of Richard
Constantine today, but he stepped in and did a great job and was on base all four
times. Here’s a guy who has been waiting in the wings, coming through in some
pinch-hit opportunities, and I’m really proud of what he did today,” the coach said.
After O’Clair walked Richard Constantine and Jack Wilson to follow, he was pulled
for righty Riley Davis, who was able to get the Blazers out of the inning without
UAB fought back with two runs in the third — including a solo homerun from first
baseman Thomas Johns — but Calvert was able to strike out cleanup hitter J. Paul
Fullerton and keep the tying run stranded on third base to hold a 3-2 lead for WKU.
After catcher Matt Phipps doubled home Constantine with a fourth Hilltopper run in
the bottom of the third, Calvert got in some hot water to begin the next frame. With
runners on first and second and zero outs, the Plano, Texas, native went 2-0 on the
next batter, designated hitter Christian Waltman.
Head coach John Pawlowski went out for a mound visit, and Waltman hit into a triple
play on the next pitch. Stationed right near third base, Sam McElreath fielded a
two-hopper and stepped on the bag, fired to Jack Wilson at second base, who then
turned to first baseman Davis Sims to complete the three-out rally killer.
It was the first triple play turned by WKU since Austin Peay hit into a 3-4 lineout
against the Hilltoppers on April 14, 2009.
WKU got an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth, when Sims doubled into the
left-field corner with zero outs, which then prompted the Blazers to intentionally
walk Sanford. The cleanup hitter Constantine came through with a single through the
six hole that brought Sims around to score for a 5-2 lead.
Righty Kenny LaPierre fired a scoreless fifth, then lefty Troy Newell posted zeroes
in the sixth and seventh. Reliever Joe Filosa came on in the eighth and allowed one
run, but worked a tidy ninth to earn his second save of the season in the 5-3
* WKU has swept two of the first five weekends for the first time since 2014,
when the Hilltoppers took three games from UNC Asheville from Feb. 21-23, then
three games from Illinois from March 8-9.
* After allowing 15 runs to Kentucky in a midweek game on Wednesday, the WKU
pitching staff rebounded to allow only 12 runs in the entirety of the series vs.
UAB. It was the fewest runs allowed by the Hilltoppers in a home C-USA set since
holding Middle Tennessee to six runs in a series sweep from March 25-27, 2015.
* Sims went 4-for-5 on the day with a double and two runs scored. It was his
first four-hit game at WKU and third of his collegiate career; the first since
March 10, 2018, vs. SIU Edwardsville while he was playing for Murray State. It was
the second four-hit game by a Hilltopper this season, matching Sanford’s 4-for-5
performance vs. Memphis on March 10.
* Making his third start of the season, Constantine reached base in all four
plate appearance, going 2-for-2 with the bat with two walks. In his first start of
2019, vs. Northern Kentucky on Feb. 17, Constantine also reached base in every
plate appearance, going 3-for-3 with three walks.
* WKU is 8-3 this season when holding opponents to six or fewer runs and 9-1
when scoring five or more runs.
WKU hosts a midweek game against Austin Peay on Tuesday, March 19, with first pitch
from Nick Denes Field at 5 p.m. The Governors are fresh off a series sweep of their
own, taking all three games from defending Ohio Valley Conference champions
Tennessee Tech in Clarksville, Tenn. Austin Peay stands at 8-9 on the season, which
includes a 7-6 midweek win over No. 1 Vanderbilt on Feb. 27 in Nashville.