Righty Paul Kirkpatrick did something Sunday that had not been accomplished in nearly 11 years by a WKU Baseball pitcher. The senior spun a complete-game shutout to power the Hilltoppers to a 4-0 victory and a series win over Rice.
The last complete game shutout on the road by a WKU pitcher was by Matt Ridings in a 2-0 win at Middle Tennessee on May 18, 2007. Meanwhile, the last complete game shutout of any kind was by Andrew Edwards in a 3-0 win vs. Louisiana-Lafayette on March 30, 2013.
It was Kirkpatrick’s second complete game in as many Division I starts in the state of Texas. Last season at UTSA, the Austin native retired 15-of-16 Roadrunners to cap the game with five scoreless innings in a 4-3 victory in San Antonio on April 8.
It was Kirkpatrick’s second complete game of the season, as he previously went the distance in a 9-3 victory over Bowling Green on March 10. In that performance, the righty allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk, but also struck out a career-high 11 Falcons. He becomes the first WKU pitcher with multiple complete games in a season since Tim Bado had a pair in 2012.
Kirkpatrick allowed four singles, three of which were ground ball choppers through the infield, with zero walks. He threw 101 pitches, 66 for strikes, and only allowed an Owls baserunner to reach second base once all game.
The Hilltoppers put up two runs in the third and fourth innings to give Kirkpatrick all the lead he would need.
The bottom of the order got things going in the third, as Kevin Lambert drew a leadoff walk and Nick Brunson ripped a double into the left-field corner, his first hit on The Hill. Colie Currie chopped a ground out to shortstop that scored Lambert, then Steven Kraft followed with a double to left-center that brought in Brunson.
In the fourth, Luke Brown led off with a double to right field and Colin Butkiewicz followed with a hit by pitch. Lambert showed bunt on the next play, but pulled it back and chopped an RBI single up the middle with the Rice defense in motion.
A few batters later, following a Currie walk to load the bases, Kraft ripped his third hit of the day into left field to bring home a second run and give WKU a 4-0 lead.
WKU’s offense produced another 10-hit game, the team’s 13th double-digit hit game in the first 24 games. In comparison, it took the 2017 Hilltoppers 42 games to reach that mark.
WKU has posted posted two shutouts in the first 24 games. No Hilltopper team has had three shutouts in a season since 2009.
Of Paul Kirkpatrick’s 27 outs, 14 came via ground ball, six were fly outs and seven were strikeouts. He utilized ground-ball double plays to end the third and fourth innings, ending up with only 30 batters faced on the afternoon.
Luke Brown posted his second consecutive multi-hit game after not having one in his first nine starts. The double to lead off the fourth innings was his first extra-base hit as a Hilltopper.
Steven Kraft tied his season-high marks of three hits and two walks. In addition, his two stolen bases tied a career high, previously posted on April 18, 2017, at Murray State.
“I’ve said this from after the Fall was complete, I felt good about this group. They’re resilient and they come every day ready to play with great effort and nothing has come easy. What a great weekend for the Tops.” — Head coach John Pawlowski
“Paul was amazing. For him to go out there on a Sunday and pitch a complete game, no walks, seven punchouts and the leadoff hitter only got on base one time. It’s outstanding and I’m so proud of him.” — Head coach John Pawlowski
“The defense did a great job behind me, a lot of ground balls and a few fly balls that were caught … Pitching-wise, using my changeup and slider to get ahead in the count early and then just not leaving the ball down the middle” — Pitcher Paul Kirkpatrick
WKU travels to Eastern Kentucky for a midweek contest on Tuesday, March 27. The Hilltoppers will be looking for revenge two weeks after the Colonels took a 7-5 win at Nick Denes Field. First pitch at Earle Combs Stadium in Richmond, Ky., will be at 3 p.m.
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WKU Hilltopper Athletics