HATTIESBURG, Miss. – In the ultimate pitcher’s duel, eighth-seeded WKU Softball
pushed No. 3 seed Louisiana Tech to 10 innings before dropping a 1-0 heartbreaker in
a Conference USA Tournament elimination game. Despite the loss, WKU’s season will
continue as the team has accepted an invitation to the first-ever NISC Tournament.
“I think we made up our minds and bought in and fought as hard as we could fight,”
head coach Amy Tudor shared. “As a coach, you’re always disappointed to lose but
never disappointed in the players. It’s always unfortunate when you have to go home
but I do believe we gave every ounce we had to give and that’s all you can ask for.”
“Your numbers don’t matter when you get to the post season, it’s all about heart and
I feel like that’s what we played on in this,” Tudor continued.
WKU is now an even 29-29 on the year after a 2-2 showing at the C-USA Tournament.
Louisiana Tech improved to 35-22 with the win.
Kathryn Downing wasted no time getting going in the first inning, sitting down the
first Louisiana Tech batter she saw with a five-pitch strike out. The next Lady
Techster singled but ended up stranded as the Hilltoppers turned a double play two
batters later to get back to the dugout.
Starting in the bottom of the second inning, Downing and the Hilltoppers would
retire 15-straight batters until Louisiana Tech would lead off the bottom of the
seventh with a single and double. At that point, Kelsey Aikey was called upon with
no outs and Lady Techsters on second and third base. Making her third appearance of
the postseason, the freshman shut the door on Louisiana Tech. After getting behind
2-0, Aikey registered three-straight strikes to get her first punch out of the day.
The next batter flew out to Paige Carter in right field and thanks to the Lady
Techster on third base not tagging, the standoff continued. WKU got out of the jam
as the next batter popped out to Haylee Towers in left field.
Jordan Mauch got things going in the top of the eighth with a one-out standing
double to the left-field corner. The junior moved to third on a Morgan McElroy
ground out. Towers, the next batter, sent a ball back up the middle, but the diving
Lady Techster short stop prevented the WKU base hit and run.
Mauch’s knock was her second hit of the game, giving the junior her 15th multi-hit
game of the 2017 campaign.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Hilltoppers’ middle infielders took care of a pair
of ground outs before a walk put a Lady Techster on base. The threat was eliminated
in the next at bat, however, as the infield took care of another grounder.
With one out in the top of the ninth inning, Taylor Proctor came to the plate and
worked a 13-pitch at bat that ultimately resulted in a base hit by the senior.
Unable to manufacture anymore offense in the frame, Proctor became the 10th
Hilltopper baserunner stranded on board in the contest.
Louisiana Tech opened the bottom of the ninth by grounding out to Brittany Vaughn at
short stop before the next batter got on board after getting hit by a pitch. Aikey
sat the next batter down on a four-pitch strikeout before closing the door on the
ninth with her third strike out of the day.
Kelsey McGuffin opened the 10th inning with her eighth hit of the tournament and
first of the day but would end up stranded on first base as the next three
Hilltoppers would go down in order.
Aikey registered her fourth strike out of the game to open the bottom of the 10th
before inducing a ground out by the next Lady Techster. After a walk, a pair of base
hits and a WKU errant throw, Louisiana Tech was able to plate a run and walk off
into another elimination game against top-seeded Marshall. The pair of base hits
were the only hits Aikey allowed on the day.
In the first post-season tournament of her career, Aikey finished with a 0.00 ERA
over 11.2 innings in relief. The freshman allowed just five hits in that span while
holding opposing batters to a .128 average.
“Kelsey Aikey’s showing in this whole tournament just shows you how far that having
belief in yourself can take you,” Tudor continued. “Being able to be recognized on
the All-Freshman team is definitely an honor and I think she was surprised by that
but it just gave her that extra boost of confidence she needed and she took it and
never looked back.”
Starting her third game of the tournament and making an appearance in all four
games, Downing closed the day with 6.0+ innings pitched and four strike outs against
one lone walk. Overall in the tournament, the senior tossed 20.2 innings.
“Taylor Proctor had a phenomenal tournament, hitting .417 at the plate. Kat Downing,
in the circle, fought and competed so hard,” Tudor shared of her seniors. “Both
seniors left it all out there and that is all you can ask for. Those two will be
missed as people, competitors and leaders but I’m glad we get a little more time
Conference USA All-Tournament Team honors will be announced following Saturday’s
championship contest between  FIU and the winner of the  Marshall and 
Louisiana Tech elimination game.
The Hilltopper squad has accepted a bid to the first-ever NISC Post-Season
Tournament. With conference tournament still wrapping up, more information will be
available in the coming days regarding where WKU will be playing its next games. The
Tournament will take a double-elimination format with play commencing on Tuesday.
Regional sites will be officially announced following Sunday evening’s NCAA
“We only had one person on our team that had experienced post-season before this
year, so being able to play in the NISC Tournament is a very unique opportunity for
us,” Tudor said. “We have things to keep working on and this gives us the chance to
do that. Attitude is going to be everything going into this. We’ve gotten another
chance to play and opportunity to get better and go out there and win ball games.”
How to Follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Softball, follow the
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