Two swings were the difference Tuesday night, as WKU Baseball lost to No. 15 Vanderbilt by a score of 3-2. With the visitors leading 2-0 going into the bottom of the sixth, the Commodores hit a pair of homeruns and held on for a one-run win.
Lefty Troy Newell got the start for the Hilltoppers, holding the hosts scoreless in his three innings of work. He allowed only two hits and struck out one, using a tidy 46 pitches in the most productive outing of his first season on The Hill.
Reliever Michael Darrell-Hicks followed with a zero in the fourth, leading into WKU’s scoring frame. In the top of the fifth, Nick Brunson led off with a walk and Steven Kraft was hit by pitch to put runners on first and second for Jacob Rhinesmith.
The junior rolled a ground ball that was misplayed by the third baseman for an error, and Brunson came around to score on the error. After Vanderbilt thwarted a double-steal by throwing out Kraft at third – with Rhinesmith safe at second – Richard Constantine lined an RBI single to right field to score a second Hilltopper run for a 2-0 lead.
The third man out of the WKU bullpen, Michael Martin, posted a scoreless fifth to hold the lead for one inning, but found trouble in the sixth.
Pat DeMarco led off the inning with a solo homerun, his fourth of the season. Then, Stephen Scott struck out but reached on a wild pitch. The next batter up, Connor Kaiser, hit a first-pitch homerun to left-center to give the Commodores a 3-2 lead.
The combination of Maddex Richardson, Jacob Green and Ben Morrison got the final nine outs for the Hilltoppers without allowing a run. That trio racked up five strikeouts and allowed only five baserunners.
Luke Brown walked to lead off the sixth inning, but he was caught stealing. The final 11 WKU hitters were retired by the Vanderbilt bullpen, as the SEC club held on until a 3-2 final score.
Richard Constantine extended his hit streak to four games, tying a season high. He has reached base safely in 13-of-14 games and drove in at least one run in 4-of-5 games.Nick Brunson earned his third straight start at third base and walked twice. In his previous 22 plate appearances, the JuCo transfer had not drawn any walks.
Steven Kraft led off the game with a single for the third time in the past four contests. He also reached had a walk and hit by pitch later in the evening, raising his on-base percentage to a team-high .486 mark. The senior has reached base in 21-of-22 games.
Giving up homeruns is unusual for Michael Martin. In 71.1 career innings coming into the game – split between UC Irvine and WKU – the righty had given up a total of only two homeruns.
Michael Darrell-Hicks and Jacob Green each notched their second consecutive scoreless outing. Meanwhile, Ben Morrison has not given up an earned run since March 4, five outings and 12.1 innings ago.
“Troy did a great job. He has continued to improve, his last three outings it seems like he’s continuing to get better and better. He has more confidence and is filling that strike zone up. He was able to beat some bats today and I was encouraged by what I saw from him.” — Head coach John Pawlowski
“The bullpen came in and made the pitches they needed to make except for one situation in one inning. Our guys played hard and competed. They came down here with a goal in mind, a purpose in mind, but unfortunately we were unable to win this game tonight.” — Head coach John Pawlowski
WKU hosts Marshall for a Friday-to-Sunday set in Conference USA action from April 13-15. First pitch on Friday will be at 5 p.m., followed by 1 p.m. start times on Saturday and Sunday. All three games will be streamed on CUSA.tv.
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WKU Hilltopper Athletics