MONROE, La. - No. 1 seed Troy University tallied single runs in the fifth and seventh innings Friday evening to hand the No. 4 seed Western Kentucky University baseball team a 4-2 loss at Louisiana-Monroe's Warhawk Field in the Hilltoppers' final game of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
WKU finishes the season with a 33-24 record, including a 17-13 record in the league. Seventeen league wins is tied for third by a Hilltoppers team in school history.
"The guys played hard and I am proud of their effort overall," WKU coach Chris Finwod said. "The young pitchers gave us a glimpse of some good things to come tonight, I thought, against a real good ballclub. I think we're right where we want to be as far being in the mix to win a Sun Belt Conference championship year in and year out."
With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth, the Trojans (42-17) took a one-run lead and added an insurance run in the seventh to hold on for the win.
Hilltoppers senior catcher Matt Rice went 1-for-3 with an RBI in his final collegiate game. He finished his four-year career with a .372 career average, having played in 216 games and as the school record holder in career hits and RBIs.
"I can't even being to start on where I would be right now if it weren't for Coach Finwood and everything he has done for me," Rice said. "I can take some of the credit but a lot of it goes to our coaching staff and Coach Allen -- all the hours the he put in there with me -- helping me get to where I'm at."
The Johnson City, Tenn., native is ranked among the top 10 in seven major offensive categories, including runs, doubles, home runs, walks and at-bats. A two-time semi-finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, Rice finishes his career with a .992 fielding percentage.
Six other WKU players tallied single hits while first baseman Ryan Huck had an RBI.
Hilltoppers freshman GJ Strauss (2-1) allowed an unearned run on two hits with a walk and two strikeouts in two innings.
Troy reliever Shane McCain (2-2) did not give up a run or a hit in two innings of work while recording a pair of strikeouts. Right-hander Tyson Workman picked up his fourth save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning.
The Hilltoppers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning on an RBI groundout by Huck. Shortstop Logan Robbins scored on the play after he singled with one out.
Troy scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to make the score 2-1. An RBI single by Workman and an RBI groundout by third baseman Tyler Hannah accounted for the scoring.
WKU tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the fifth inning when Rice was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Third baseman Casey Dykes singled to lead off the inning, left fielder Jared Andreoli drew a walk and second baseman Ivan Hartle was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Hartle reached base in the final 48 games of the season.
The Trojans regained the lead 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Boone Shear.
Troy tacked on a run in the bottom of the seventh to extend their advantage to 4-2. An RBI double by pinch hitter Hayden Hillyer scored Shear, who singled with one out.
WKU right-hander Justin Hageman limited the Trojans to two runs - one earned - on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts in four innings. Freshman right-hander Brian Doering allowed a run in two innings.
Troy starter Ryan Sorce allowed one run on two hits with a pair of walks and strikeouts in three innings. Thomas Austin, Garrett McHenry, Nick Ward and A.J. Howard also saw action out of the Trojans bullpen.