RICHMOND, Ky. — In a 10-inning game that featured a combined 31 runs on 34 hits and 19 walks, WKU Baseball fell just shy of Eastern Kentucky by a score of 16-15 on Wednesday evening. Steven Kraft hit a pair of homeruns, drove in four and scored three in the contest that tied for the most runs scored in the 136-game series between the two programs.
After falling behind 6-0 after the second inning, the Hilltoppers tallied six runs of their own over the next two frames to tie it up. Kraft was the spark, spraying a two-run shot to right field to get the visitors on the board in the top of the third. WKU then scored four in the fourth frame, highlighted by a pinch-hit, two-run single by Nathan Methvin with the bases loaded.
That served as the first of three ties in the contest to go along with five lead changes.
Back-to-back doubles by Tyler Robertson and Hunter Wood brought in three WKU runs in the fifth inning to give the Hilltoppers a 9-7 lead. An inning later, the second baseman brought in another two runs with an opposite-field double, extending the lead to 11-8 while contributing to his 3-of-5 overall day at the plate with four runs batted in and two runs scored.
But the Colonels tied it up with three runs of their own in the bottom half, which caused WKU to, obviously, respond with three more in the top of the seventh.
Pinch hitter Marshall Smith – who scored the game-winning run about 24 hours before on Grayson Ivey’s walk-off hit vs. Belmont – started the inning with a double down the left-field line. Seven hitters later, Robertson chopped an infield single to third base to score Colie Currie and put the Hilltoppers up, 14-11.
The hosts then put up their second four-run inning of the night to take the lead into the WKU half of the eighth inning. Facing a 3-1 count, Kraft hit another towering fly ball to right that cleared the fence for a solo shot to tie the ballgame, 15-15. It made for the Hilltoppers’ second two-homerun performance already this season, matching Wood’s two long balls in a 14-4 victory vs. Jacksonville State on Feb. 25.
Fast-forward to the ninth inning with the bases loaded and two outs, when reliever Jackson Sowell faced pinch hitter, freshman Logan Stephens. After falling behind 2-0, Sowell came back with three consecutive fastballs for strikes, the final one swinging, to end the EKU threat and force extra innings.
When the Hilltoppers were retired 1-2-3 in the top of the 10th, Sowell faced another bases-loaded situation in the bottom, but this time could not escape. With one out, the Colonels’ Alex Holderbach hit the first pitch into right-center field to push the game-winning run across in the four-hour, 15-minute contest.
1. It tied for the most runs scored in the all-time series, matching the mark of 31 in the Hilltoppers’ 20-11 victory at Earle Combs Stadium on May 12, 2004.
2. It was the first time since a 17-16 victory vs. Kentucky on April 1, 1996 that both teams scored 15-plus runs in a WKU game.
3. It was the most combined runs scored in a WKU game since March 11, 2014, when the Hilltoppers lost 26-7 at Georgia.
Play of the Day
In a bit of an oddity, Grayson Ivey hit third base with a sharp ground ball during WKU’s three-run seventh inning. Ivey ended up at second base with a double after the ball jumped over the third baseman and ended up in left field. The base hit scored Steven Kraft and moved Colie Currie to third base.
What’s Up Next
The Hilltoppers host Missouri Valley Conference opponent Illinois State for a three-game series at Nick Denes Field from Friday, March 10 to Sunday, March 12. After starting the season 2-1, the Redbirds have been swept in back-to-back series at Memphis and Miami (Ohio).
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