Bullpen Collapse Forces Extras, Tops Fall 4-3


The WKU Hilltoppers baseball squad opened the 2014 Sun Belt Conference baseball championship tournament in the most disappointing of ways, taking a three run lead in the ninth, but was unable to hold it, eventually losing to the fourth seeded Texas State Bobcats 4-3 in 10 innings.

The scoring started early for WKU, as Ryan Messex singled home Anderson Miller for the games first run in the top of the second inning, giving WKU starter Justin Hageman an early, albiet small, cushion to work with. The next WKU run came in the top of the sixth, when Cody Wofford singled (and later advanced to second on a Bobcat throwing error), which brought home Philip Diedrick. The Tops would get a much welcomed insurrance run in the top of the ninth, when the final Bobcat pitcher of the day Justin Dellinger would walk the bases loaded, and Regan Flaherty would fly out to left field to bring home Scott Wilcox.

The Bobcats would stay quiet offensively until bottom of the ninth, an inning which saw Ian Tompkins throw just six pitches (a hit batter in Austin O’Neal and walk against Granger Studdard) which made way for Sam Higgs, but he loaded the bases and allowed the first Texas State run of the game, and their first in 26 innings, when Tyler Pearson singled to bring home Studdard (a run that would be charged to Tompkins). Higgs couldn’t finish the ‘Cats off, so Matt Myers called on Brennan Pearson, who couldn’t find the strike zone against his first batter, and walked Tanner Hill which brought home Cody Lovejoy.

The Bobcats tied the game in the most exciting of ways, as Corey Geisler flied out to right field, and a rocket throw from Flaherty to Messex, but the backstop couldn’t hold onto the ball as he apllied the tag, and it allowed Tyler Pearson to score. The winning run came in the bottom of the 10th inning, when Lovejoy sent a sacrifice fly into center field which scored Studdard, and ended the game.

The win was a relief for the Texas State pitching staff, especially starter Taylor Black who went 6 solid innings, allowing both runs on five hits and striking out five. His sucessor, Andrew Boes, ran into some trouble in the top of the ninth inning after pitching 2.1 innings of one hit, one run ball (althought it was Dellinger who was on the mound when the Wilcox run scored in the ninth).

Hageman pitched lights out and picked up right where he left off against Texas State from the regular season, as he went eight innings of three hit ball while also recording six strikeouts in 117 pitches, and it’s a shame that his bullpen couldn’t preserve his magnificent outing. Once again, the bullpen showed it’s weaknesses, as Ian Tompkins, Sam Higgs and Brennan Pearson combined to give up four runs on three hits and three walks in two combined innings of work.

The loss couldn’t be more disappointing, and isn’t the type of loss you want to be handed as you’re sent to an elimination bracket. Fortunately for WKU, they will play the eighth seeded ULM Warhawks tomorrow, however, will be sent back to Bowling Green with a loss. It was a tough one against the Bobcats, baseball is a quick turnaround game, and that is exactly what the boys will need to have a chance to play another day.