BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Looking for its best performance ever in Conference USA season,
WKU Baseball hosts Louisiana Tech at Nick Denes Field for a weekend series. The
three-game set will be Friday-to-Sunday, April 27-29, with the first game beginning
at 6 p.m. and 1 p.m. starts for the final two matchups.
Sitting at 19-21 overall and 9-9 in league play, the Hilltoppers could post 11 wins
in C-USA competition for the first time since joining the league prior to the 2015
season. WKU notched 10 C-USA victories in both 2015 and 2016.
Former Sun Belt Conference foes in the 90’s, the Hilltoppers and Bulldogs have
played 35 times, as Louisiana Tech leads the all-time series 19-16. The clubs played
a series in seven straight seasons from 1995-2001, then went 13 seasons without a
matchup until WKU joined C-USA.
In SBC play, the Hilltoppers and Bulldogs tied for a 13-13 mark head-to-head. WKU
held a 12-6 advantage in the first 18 meetings overall, but Louisiana Tech has since
won 13-of-17, including a 6-of-9 as C-USA members.
The Hilltoppers won three of the first four C-USA contests over the Bulldogs, but
Louisiana Tech currently boasts a five-game win streak against WKU, including a
three-game sweep in Ruston last season.
However, the 2018 WKU club has been known to stop these skids. After losing 11
straight to Rice, the Hilltoppers won the final two games of the series in Houston.
After losing nine straight to Southern Miss, WKU defeated the No. 13 Golden Eagles
in Hattiesburg. And after losing seven straight to Marshall, the Hilltoppers won the
final two games of that set at Nick Denes Field.
The Bulldogs enter the weekend with a 29-14 overall record, including 13-5 in C-USA
games. Like WKU’s 5-4 loss at Louisville on Tuesday, Louisiana Tech also fell in
midweek, by a score of 9-4 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette. Prior to that game, however, the
Bulldogs had won five straight games and scored 10-plus runs in each victory.
Louisiana Tech sits third in the league standings by ranking second in the league
with 130 runs scored and 80 runs allowed in 18 games. Behind Southern Miss righty
Nick Sandlin, Bulldog lefty Logan Bailey has been the most effective starter in
league play, owning a 5-0 record with a 2.04 ERA in 35.1 innings pitched.
Bailey will be Louisiana Tech’s Sunday starter, with righty Matt Miller and lefty
Logan Robbins preceding him. Each one had made 10 starts, accounting for all 30
weekend starts this season.
Overall, Miller (4-2, 3.20 ERA in 56.1 innings), Robbins (6-0, 3.43 ERA in 60.1
innings), Bailey (7-1, 1.88 ERA in 57.1 innings) and midweek specialist David Leal
(3-3, 1.70 ERA in 69 innings) lead a Bulldog staff that ranks fourth in the nation
with a 2.66 ERA across 43 games.
At the dish, designated hitter Hunter Wells is the typical leadoff hitter. He leads
the club with a .337 batting average and 36 runs scored. Shortstop Dalton Skelton
leads Louisiana Tech with 19 extra-base hits, translating to a team-high .531
Mason Robinson comes to town as the reigning C-USA Hitter of the Week, as the right
fielder hit for the cycle at Louisiana-Lafayette on April 18 and then helped the
Bulldogs clinch a sweep at Marshall over the weekend.
For the Hilltoppers, lefty Ryan Thurston will get the Friday nod, followed by righty
Paul Kirkpatrick on Saturday, while the team’s Sunday starter remains TBA at this
time. Although WKU is only 4-6 in games started by Thurston this season, the senior
has gone five-plus innings on 9-of-10 outings and leads Hilltopper starters with a
3.13 ERA in 60.1 innings.
A trio of WKU hitters is leading the way of late, as Luke Brown, Steven Kraft and
Ray Zuberer III have combined to hit .402 (37-of-92) and score 20 runs over the past
eight games. For the season, Kraft’s .358 batting average ranks sixth in C-USA while
his .473 on-base percentage sits fifth. Since returning to the team on March 3, the
senior has reached base in 29-of-30 games.