HUNTINGTON, W. Va. — For the third time in the series, WKU Softball owned an early advantage over host Marshall, but after a 45-minute rain delay the Hilltoppers ultimately fell in a 6-3 to close the Conference USA series. After trailing by two runs, the Red and White used a three-run fourth inning to take a 3-2 lead in the game before the Thundering Herd tallied the final four runs of the contest.
“The bottom of our lineup did a good job of keeping us in the game today,” head coach Amy Tudor said of the combined hits from the Hilltoppers’ eight and nine slots. “At times we’ve struggled to turn the lineup over this season so it was good to see we were able to find a way to do that today.”
WKU sits at an even 18-18 on the 2017 campaign following the weekend series in Huntington. The Hilltoppers also dropped to 3-6 in C-USA matchups while Marshall improved to 24-4 overall and 9-0 in league play.
A three up, three down half frame to open the contest in Huntington quickly had the Hilltoppers taking the field. Marshall’s first three batters got on base, but the Herd only had two runners on at once after the leadoff runner was thrown out by Taylor Proctor attempting to steal third base. Haylee Towers picked up a crucial swinging strikeout with runners on second and third and the WKU side was able to get out of the jam when the next batter grounded out.
Second-inning action finished similarly to the first frame as WKU got out of a two runners on jam for the second time of the day. Marshall went on to take a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third for the first scoring of the day.
Marshall’s lead wouldn’t hold for long as the Hilltopper offense got started in the top of the fourth frame. Brittany Vaughn led off the inning after taking her 14th hit by pitch of the season. Jordan Mauch advanced Vaughn 60 feet with a single to centerfield. During Proctor’s foul fly out, Vaughn tagged and advanced to third base after the Marshall fielders collided. Kara Brewer registered a sacrifice fly to shallow right field, which allowed Vaughn to score from third. Rebekah Engelhardt moved Mauch to second base with a walk, bringing Katie Johnson to the plate. Johnson notched her second career hit with an RBI single that didn’t leave the infield, bringing Mauch around to score. Towers kept things going with a single back up the middle, scoring Engelhardt for a 3-2 WKU advantage.
The Thundering Herd struck again in the bottom of the fifth inning. After tying the contest at 3-3, Marshall had a runner on third and after a walk the runners each tried to advance but WKU gunned down the go-ahead run at home to end the inning in the middle of a torrential downpour.
After a 45-minute rain delay, action was resumed at the Dot Hicks Field. WKU went three-up, three-down in the top of the sixth inning before taking the field again. Marshall took advantage of the resumed game and tacked up three runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 6-3 lead.
With three outs to work with, WKU couldn’t get anything going again and the 6-3 score stood.
“I would say that the rain delay was a big momentum shift that unfortunately did not favor us,” head coach Amy Tudor said of the 45-minute stoppage. “We were out in the field when the rain started coming down; having to pitch and play in those conditions in the bottom of the fifth inning before the field was tarped.”
Towers was busy on the day, taking the decision in a complete game from the circle, including striking out five Thundering Herd batters. Towers went 2-for-3 at the plate with a pair of singles including an RBI for her fourth multi-hit game of her debut campaign.
Paige Carter made a pinch-hit appearance in the contest, knocking a lead-off double to open the top of the fifth inning.
WKU Softball will return home to host its next for contests after playing 11 of the last 14 games on the road. The Hilltoppers will host Murray State for a single game on Wednesday before UAB comes to town for a cross-division C-USA series starting April 1.
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