BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — On a scheduled bullpen day for the WKU Baseball pitching staff,
a group of eight relievers combined for eight scoreless frames to lead the
Hilltoppers to a 4-1 victory over Belmont on Tuesday afternoon. In the lineup, Chase
Larsen knocked in the first two runs of the game and leadoff hitter Dillon Nelson
reached in all four plate appearances and scored a run.
After the Bruins got one run on a two-out rally in the top of the first, WKU (2-2)
knotted it up in the bottom half. After Nelson was hit by pitch and advanced to
second on a passed ball, he was moved over to third on a fly out. Larsen ripped a
1-1 pitch up the middle for a single that allowed Nelson to trot home.
It was all zeroes for the visitors the rest of the way, as Paul Kirkpatrick, Michael
Darrell-Hicks, Troy Newell, Maddex Richardson, Michael Martin, Jacob Green, Austin
Tibbs and Ben Morrison kept the Bruins off the board. Each WKU pitcher got 2-to-4
out, while none faced more than five batters in his appearance.
Darrell-Hicks was credited with the win, shutting down Belmont (2-2) in the top of
the third inning before the Hilltoppers broke the 1-1 tie. Colin Butkiewicz started
the frame by working an eight-pitch walk, which Nelson followed with a single. After
a sacrifice bunt by Colie Currie, Larsen ground out to score Butkiewicz from third
with the Bruins’ infield playing back.
As the bullpen kept rolling, the Hilltoppers added their final two runs in the
sixth, when pinch-hitter Ray Zuberer III ripped a single to right field to score
Larsen – who was hit by pitch – and move Jacob Rhinesmith – who had just singled –
to third base. Still with no outs, Tyler Robertson lifted a sacrifice fly to left
field to bring home Rhinesmith and give WKU a three-run lead, which never wavered.
* The Hilltoppers have won four consecutive Home Openers at Nick Denes Field (W,
6-5 vs. Valparaiso in 2017; W, 5-3 vs. Youngstown State in 2016; W, 5-3 vs.
Evansville in 2015).
* WKU has defeated Belmont five straight times in Bowling Green and will have a
chance to even up the all-time series at 24-24 when the Hilltoppers make a return
trip to E.S. Rose Park in 14 days (March 6) for the second leg of the
* Rhinesmith had the second multi-hit game this season and has reached base at
least once in all four games of his WKU career.
* Larsen posted the team’s first multi-RBI performance of the year, while
Nelson’s four times on base was a new team-season-high.
* WKU’s leadoff hitter in all four games so far, Nelson has reached base in
8-of-18 (.444) plate appearances, including four times hit by pitch.
* The graduate transfer righty Martin has pitched in 3-of-4 games for the
Hilltoppers, and has put up a scoreless outing all three appearances.
Play of the Day
With the bases loaded and two out in the top of the fourth, freshman righty
Richardson was called upon by Pawlowski to strand the inherited runners and preserve
a 2-1 WKU lead. Richardson did just that, as he struck out Kyle Conger swinging on
four pitches and then went on to pitch a scoreless fifth frame as well.
* “I looked up in the second or third inning and saw people down the left field
line and right field line. That’s exciting to see Hilltopper fans come out to
support these guys and we found a way to win today. Great effort by our team and
we’re certainly happy that the folks came out today.” — Head coach John Pawlowski
* “The plan was going in to use multiple pitchers, we wanted to get those guys
in to get some work. They did an outstanding job. I’m proud of the way they
pitched and certainly the way we played today. I thought each guy went out there
and did a nice job, they really attacked the strike zone and I’m proud of what
they did.” – Head coach John Pawlowski
* “It was a good team victory, everyone did their part. The pitchers did their
jobs and hitters stepped up when we needed to. It was overall a good team win to
start off the year on the right foot. We all came out hoping to turn something
around from last year and i think this is a good step in the right direction.” —
Infielder Chase Larsen
The Hilltoppers host Northern Illinois for a Friday-to-Sunday Feb. 23-25 set with a
scheduled doubleheader Saturday. It will be the program’s first four-game series
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