On the back of 5.1 shutout innings from newcomer Colby Taylor, WKU Baseball picked up its first win of the season over Memphis by a score of 3-1 in Game 1 of the Sunday doubleheader. Colin Butkiewicz had a key, two-out, two-RBI double in the seventh inning to give the Hilltoppers a lead that Ben Morrison and the bullpen closed out.

In Game 2 of the afternoon, a rubber match for the weekend series, the Tigers responded with a 7-1 victory. Jacob Rhinesmith tallied WKU’s lone run of the contest with a solo homerun in the fourth inning.

Game 1
Things got going offensively for the Hilltoppers in the second inning, when Rhinesmith led off with a hit by pitch. The center fielder stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher. With two out, Tyler Robertson battled with a 1-2 count and grounded a single up the middle to give his club a 1-0 lead.

The score stayed stagnant for a while, as Taylor followed Ryan Thurston’s performance from Opening Day with a gem of his own. The righty struck out only one, but allowed only a pair of singles. He threw 49-of-89 pitches for strikes and walked five, but did not allow a runner past second base.

WKU got some insurance and a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning, when Butkiewicz knocked home Tyler Robertson and Ray Zuberer III with a double inside the third base line. Zuberer got things started with a one-out triple – the Hilltoppers’ first extra-base hit of the season – and Robertson followed with a six-pitch walk.

The bullpen combination of Michael Martin, Maddex Richardson and Austin Tibbs paved the way for closer Ben Morrison to shut down the Tigers for the final two outs. It was the senior’s seventh career save and first since April 17, 2015, at FIU.

Game 2
Starting pitcher Troy Newell was the victim of three bloop singles in the first inning, allowing four runs and getting two outs – both via strikeout. Malcolm Grady came in to relive the lefty and stranded the bases loaded on a fly out to right field. Grady shut down Memphis in the second, but allowed three runs in the third, capped by a two-run homerun from Evan Bell as the hosts went ahead, 7-0.

It was a scoreless performance the rest of the way for the WKU bullpen, highlighted by Devon Loomis’ 3.1 innings worth of zeroes in the run and hit columns. Loomis faced 11 batters and retired 10 – the only blemish being a walk – while striking out four.

Meanwhile, in the sixth inning, Rhinesmith took Tigers’ starter Alex Hicks deep on a 3-2 pitch over the right-center field wall. All day, fly balls had been halted by the strong wind current coming in from the East, but not that one. It was the team first homerun of the season, as Rhinesmith showed a glimpse of the power tool he has that allowed him to hit 11 dingers at Indian Hills Community College in 2017.

Sophomore righties Jeff Ciocco and Michael Darrell-Hicks each contributed a scoreless frame in the seventh and eighth, respectively, as the Hilltoppers were unable to get any more runs across the board on the afternoon.

Topper Notes
Butkiewicz was not only a hero at the plate, but behind it as well. In Game 1, the catcher was 3-of-3 gunning down potential base stealers, which put him at a perfect 4-for-4 over the weekend. Last season, primary catcher Hunter Wood threw out 21-of-59 steal attempts.
Robertson went 1-for-1 in Game 1 with two walks and a sacrifice bunt, becoming the second WKU player of the short season to not make an out at the plate in at least three plate appearances. On Opening Day, Zuberer also went 1-for-1 with two walks.
After going 0-for-5 on Opening Day, Colie Currie responded with a pair of singles in each game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Currie was the lone Hilltopper with two multi-hit games over the weekend, as he raised his career total to 20 such performances. He ended the weekend batting .308 (4-for-13).
In all three games of the series, it was the team that scored first that won the game, with no lead changes at any point over the 27 innings.

Up Next
WKU returns to Bowling Green on Sunday night to prepare for the team’s Home Opener at Nick Denes Field on Tuesday, Feb. 20 vs. Belmont. The Hilltoppers and Bruins are set for first pitch at 3 p.m.

How to Follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Hilltopper Baseball, follow the program via social media @WKUBaseball on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.

-@WKUSports-
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Bryan Fyalkowski
Assistant Director of Media Relations
WKU Hilltopper Athletics

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