BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – For just the second time in program history, WKU Softball has
opened its conference slate with a pair of series sweeps after Sunday’s 3-0 series
finale victory over Charlotte. Kennedy Sullivan struck for WKU’s fourth home run of
the series to get the Hilltopper offense going before Shelby Nunn and Kelsey Aikey
locked its down in the circle with their fourth combined shutout of the season.
With their second series sweep in as many weekends, the Red and White improved to
22-5 on the season, including a 6-0 mark in Conference USA – putting the Hilltoppers
in first place in the league standings. Charlotte dropped to 10-18 overall and 2-7
in league play with the loss.
Head coach Amy Tudor has been at the helm for both 6-0 conference starts as the
program also achieved the feat during the 2014 campaign. The last time the
Hilltoppers swept a conference series at home was senior weekend of the 2017
campaign over Southern Miss.
Across the series, WKU out-hit Charlotte 23-12 while outscoring the 49ers 19-2.
Seventeen of the Red and White’s 19 runs came via a Hilltopper RBI. The lethal
combination of WKU’s pitching staff and defense held the visitors to a .167 weekend
batting average while the Hilltoppers operated at a .338 rate.
After a hit and error saw Charlotte put a pair of runners on board in the first with
just one out, Shelby Nunn picked up her second strikeout of the frame before a
groundout to third base got the Hilltoppers to the plate for the first time in the
series finale. With two outs, Kendall Smith drew her fifth-straight walk from the
49ers after hitting her sixth home run of the season in Saturday’s first game.
However, the sophomore would end up stranded.
Charlotte registered its second hit of the game in the top of the second but a
couple groundouts later the Hilltoppers headed back to the dugout unharmed.
Kennedy Sullivan led off the bottom of the second with the first home run of her
career for a 1-0 Hilltopper advantage. Two batters later, Morgan McElroy sent a
single back up the middle before moving into scoring position on a groundout. Maddie
Bowlds followed with a two-out walk before Jordan Thomas sent a base hit to right
field to bring McElroy around to score for the 2-0 Hilltopper lead.
After a pair of scoreless innings, WKU added an insurance run in the bottom of the
fifth. Thomas led off the frame with an eight-pitch walk before moving into scoring
position on a Shannon Plese single back up the middle. After a Charlotte pitching
change, WKU would have runners on the corners after a fielder’s choice from Smith.
Kelsey McGuffin would end up pinch running for Smith and switch corners on a double
steal that saw Thomas slide in safely to home for a 3-0 WKU lead.
The 49ers looked to respond in the top of the sixth with a leadoff double but Kelsey
Aikey took over in the circle and locked down the Hilltopper victory. To get the Red
and White back to the dugout in the sixth, Aikey painted the corner for a called
strike out before getting the next two 49er batters swinging.
Jordan Vorbrink led off the bottom of the sixth with a single before being pinch ran
for by Haylee Towers who would get forced out on a fielder’s choice. Heading back to
the dirt looking for the final three outs, Aikey sat down her fourth-straight batter
with a called punchout on a full count. The next Charlotte batter was able to put a
ball in play but ended up grounding out to Thomas at second base before Aikey closed
out the save with her fifth strikeout.
Nunn earned the win in the circle to move to 4-0 on the season. The sophomore
finished with 5.0+ innings pitched while allowing just four hits and zero runs
against four strikeouts and three walks.
Aikey picked up her single-season school-record fifth save of the season with the
six-out, five-strikeout performance. She also continues to separate herself atop the
WKU career saves list with 11.
The pair of Hilltopper pitchers have now teamed up for four combined complete-game
shutouts this season. As a whole, WKU has shut out 10 opponents this year.
In complete shutdown mode, WKU was able to strand 10 Charlotte runners on base in
the series finale as the 49ers went 1-for-17 with a runner on board.
Sullivan finished with her second multi-hit game of the series with a 2-for-3
showing at the plate. The freshman connected for WKU’s 20th home run of the season –
her first – before adding a base hit.
“I thought Kennedy was very patient at the plate and picked her pitch and put a good
swing on it, “Tudor said of the freshman. “She did a good job for us both at the
plate and in the circle this weekend.”
With the series sweep from the WKU Softball Complex, the Hilltoppers are now 9-1
when playing at home this season.
“We have great fans and great support throughout the community,” Tudor added of the
home crowd. “We learned how to win on the road where we don’t get the last say in
the game and now playing back at home felt good; it felt comfortable. We appreciate
everyone coming out this weekend.”
NEXT GAME: WKU will take a break from conference play as the squad heads to
Lexington for a midweek at No. 13 Kentucky. Tuesday’s first pitch is scheduled for 5