BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The WKU softball team's five runs in the third inning Sunday proved to be enough as the Lady Toppers held off a seventh-inning rally by South Alabama to beat the Jaguars 5-4 at the WKU Softball Field. Mallorie Sulaski earned her first win in the circle for the Lady Toppers in 2012, striking out five batters in 6.1 innings pitched. Senior Laura Smith went 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBI.
"We just trust Mallorie from what she did last season, and the times we've put her in this season she's competed and done well," said head coach Tyra Perry on the performance of WKU's starting pitcher Sunday.
WKU (19-10, 4-2 Sun Belt) had a chance to get on the board early in the first inning. Shawna Sadler led off the inning with a bunt single. Sadler advanced to third on consecutive groundouts, but was left there as South Alabama (17-8, 5-1) starting pitcher Hannah Campbell got Katrina Metoyer to ground out to end the inning. The Jaguars then put together a threat in the top of the second. Christin Crocker reached base on an error to start the frame, then stole second base. After Crocker got to third on a wild pitch, Sulaski got Julie Moss to ground out for the first out of the inning. Haley Richards followed by hitting a ball right at Preslie Cruce at third base. Cruce initially bobbled the ball, but threw home to put out Crocker for the second out of the inning. After a walk and an infield single loaded the bases, Sulaski got Alyssa Linn to ground out to end the inning.
The Lady Toppers had their first two batters reach base to lead off the bottom of the third, as Kelsie Mattox singled followed by a Cruce double. After a lineout, Metoyer hit an infield single that scored Mattox and put WKU ahead 1-0. Sulaski then singled to load the bases for Smith. The senior designated player promptly hit a single to center field, bringing in two more Lady Toppers runs. Karavin Dew copied Smith's at-bat with an RBI single of her own, putting the score at 4-0. Dew then stole second base and scored on an RBI double by Olivia Watkins. All told, WKU scored five runs in the third inning on seven hits.
South Alabama got on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth on an RBI groundout by Brittany Fowler, making the score 5-1. Trailing by four, the Jaguars attemped a comeback in the top of the seventh. Britany Campbell led off with an infield single. Alyssa Linn then hit a pop-up that was dropped by Watkins at second base, but Watkins quickly flipped the ball to Amanda Thomas covering second base to put out Campbell for the first out of the seventh. Blair Johnson then knocked a base hit up the right field line, giving South Alabama runners at first and second with one out.
Kim Wagner then entered the game to pitch for WKU. The first batter she faced was Fowler, who hit a double to center field to bring in two Jaguars runs and make the score 5-3. After Meghan Collins grounded out for the second out, Christin Crocker hit a single through the right side of the infield, bringing in Fowler to make it a 5-4 game. Moss followed with a base hit, but Wagner got Richards to ground out to Thomas to end the game.
"We're excited about where we are in the conference right now", said Perry after Sunday's win. "We're 4-2. Who's to say that the winner of the conference won't have two losses. To have beaten teams picked ahead of us in the preseason is great and we're only going to get better."
Sadler, Smith, and Sulaski each had two hits for the Lady Toppers on Sunday. WKU had 11 hits total, while the Jaguars had seven led by Britany Campbell's 2-for-3 day at the plate.
WKU will wrap up its current homestand on Wednesday, March 22 when Kentucky comes to the WKU Softball Field for a 7 p.m. game. Wednesday's game is a "Red Out", with fans encouraged to wear red for the game. The first 250 WKU fans through the gate will receive a free "Red Out" t-shirt.