GAMEDAY: Tops vs. Vandy


Courtesy of WKU Athletics on Facebook

Everyone still excited over the three game sweep of UNC-Ashville? How about that 13-2 performance Sunday? Great!

Now, move on.

The Tops are on the road again, as they will head south to Nashville…again…this time, to take on the Commodores of Vanderbilt, in a mid-week showdown.

Vandy comes into the contest ranked 4th in the nation, and boast a 7-0 record, with wins coming against Long Beach State, Lipscomb and the University of Illinois-Chicago, and averaging seven runs per game.

The Dores will send out Walker Buehler (…Buehler….Buehler…) to the mound, who is a Kentucky native (Henry Clay High School), and understood the game so well at the high school level, his coaching staff let him call his own game, as opposed to taking signs from the dugout. Buehler averaged his pitches around 81 MPH, but did hit 100 on occasion. Buehler went 4-3 last year with a 3.14 ERA, and started 9 games while appearing in 16 total a season ago. So far this year, he is 1-0 (Vandy’s 5-1 win over Lipscomb) with an ERA of 1.12 after 5 innings of four hit hit ball. Only a sophomore, it appears he has come a long way since allowing five runs on 10 hits to Georgia Tech in the back end of last season. Buehler is only one of Vandy’s many great pitchers, as the Dores lead the SEC in team ERA with a 0.43.

Offensively, Vandy touts four .300+ hitters, with Zander Wiel leading the way, hitting .417 after seven games. The most production so far in the Commodores’ lineup has come from freshman outfielder Bryan Reynolds and junior infielder Vince Conde. Both players have a team-high seven RBI, and Reynolds has been the only Vandy player to leave the park so far this year. Vandy’s .321 team average ranks second in the Southeastern Conference (only behind Ole Miss).

For the true home team, the Tops will send Bowling Green native Josh Bartley (0-1, 13.50) to the bump, who will be pitching for the first time since the season opener against Southern Illinois, in which Bartley, unfortunately, gave up two Saluki runs in the 8th inning, but pitched a strong 7th inning before hand, so…there’s that. Bartley came to the Hill highly thought of by the coaching staff, and one bad outing to start the year shouldn’t hamper that. Bartley will be ready to go.

Offensively, the Tops are lead by Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week Scott Wilcox. Wilcox, who leads the Sun Belt in batting average (.500), slugging percentage (.833) and on-base percentage (.636), had himself quite a weekend against Ashville, tallying eight hits (including a home run and a double), scoring four runs, and drove three men in during the three game sweep. Wilcox also owned the go-ahead RBI in Friday night’s come from behind win, and recorded his 49th career multi-hit game Sunday. Phew. You think he’s done enough?

Contrary to what it might seem, Wilcox is not all the offense the Hilltoppers have. Ryan Church and Cody Wofford both had solid series’ against the Bulldogs themselves, as Church’s average is good for third highest on the squad at .345 and Wofford owns a .267 mark. Church also recorded a career high four RBI in Sunday’s finale, and Wofford went a perfect 4-for-4, and will want to continue the hot streak.

If you’re writing the Tops’ chances off because, c’mon, Vandy is ranked 4th in the country, let me stop you right there. Aside from Vandy winning in the bottom of the 9th by one run last year, the Tops have had relatively good success against ranked opponents. Since 2008, WKU has knocked off seven Top 25 opponents, and four of those wins have come against opponents ranked in the Top 10. The Hilltoppers also boast more power than Vandy does, and if they can take advantage of it, it’s going to be a great afternoon to be a WKU fan.

First pitch is scheduled for 4 CT in Nasvhille, and we will have your post game recap and reaction right  here. But for real this time.

Stand up and cheers.