BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Getting the Opening Day nod from head coach John Pawlowski,
senior lefty Troy Newell threw five scoreless innings to lead WKU Baseball to a 9-6
victory on Friday afternoon at Nick Denes Field. It was Newell’s first-career
victory for the Hilltoppers, as he struck out six while throwing 53-of-83 pitches
for strikes and allowed only four baserunners.
“The big thing is we got the first one. We were challenged today and I liked
the way our guys responded and competed against a very tough opponent,” said head coach
John Pawlowski. “Until youput somebody else in the other dugout and you start playing
for keeps you really don’t know, and we’re going to find out a lot here in the next 3-to-4 weeks.
“I was really impressed with Troy today, he did a great job to get us started.
One thing we talk about with him is his ability to command the strike zone, and if
he can fill up the strike zone like he did today, he’s going to be very tough. I
was proud of the way he competed and threw three pitches for strikes. That’s a big
start for him, getting him off on the right foot is very important for our team.”
It was the fifth-straight home opener won by WKU, dating back to a 5-3 victory over
Evansville in 2015. It was the most runs scored by the Hilltoppers on Opening Day
since a 12-1 win over Bowling Green to begin the 2011 campaign.
“Winning on Opening Day means everything. We talked about leading off the
series with a win to give ourselves an opportunity to win the series on Saturday
… It was an honor to be named Opening Day starter. It’s something that I worked
really hard for … I just want to keep doing what I’ve been doing, I expect a lot
of myself,” said senior lefty Troy Newell.
Shortstop Kevin Lambert – who has now started all 108 possible games since he
arrived at WKU – paced the Hilltoppers with a career-high-tying three base hits, a
mark he has now reached three times in his career. Meanwhile, right fielder Jake
Sanford led the team with three runs batted in in his WKU debut, including two on a
double off the left-field wall in the second.
The two-run hit by Sanford was a part of a five-run frame for the Hilltoppers, who
scored three unearned from a pair of Norse errors in the inning to take a 5-0 lead.
Sanford jump-started a three-run sixth as well, with the first of three RBI singles
in a span of four batters.
As WKU took an 8-0 lead into the sixth, Newell’s day was done and the Pawlowski went
to the bullpen. With a large cushion, the combination of Eric Crawford and Joe
Filosa allowed six runs but got the next 10 outs, then Jack Lambert cleaned up the
final two NKU hitters for the save.
* Catcher Matt Phipps accounted for the ninth run of the game for the
Hilltoppers, driving in Sanford in the eighth with a double off the base of the
* Kevin Lambert and Sanford each reached base four times in five plate
appearances, as the WKU offense pounded out 11 hits and drew seven walks. In all,
seven different Hilltoppers had at least one hit, one run scored and drove in one
* With a career-high two steals by Kevin Lambert and one apiece from Dillon
Nelson and Ray Zuberer III, WKU was a perfect 4-for-4 on stolen bases. In 2018,
the Hilltoppers went 3-1 when swiping four-plus bags.
* Sanford and freshman center fielder Jackson Swiney each drew a pair of walks.
Zuberer and graduate junior third baseman Davis Sims each scored a pair of runs.
First baseman Sam McElreath recorded the other multi-hit game for WKU, going
2-for-5 with a double and one run batted in.
* The WKU pitching staff began the 2019 season by striking out 11 Norse batters.
In 2018, the Hilltoppers stuck out the opposition 10-plus times in 19-of-52
* The WKU pitching staff threw 117-of-188 (62.2 percent) pitches for strikes,
while the NKU hurlers threw 103-of-168 (61.3 percent) pitches in the zone.
Game 2 of the series between WKU and NKU will be played on Saturday, Feb. 16 with
first pitch at 1 p.m. with free admission for all fans. Righty Bailey Sutton is
probable to start for the Hilltoppers. The Louisville native returns to the Nick
Denes Field mound after missing the entire 2018 season while recovering from