BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Matt Ridings worked a season-high eight innings against ULM Friday night, helping 22nd-ranked WKU to a 6-1 win in the first game of a three-game series. The Hilltoppers have now won five-straight and nine of 10 overall, their second winning streak of at least five games in 2010, and are 18-5 on the season and 4-0 in Sun Belt Conference play. The 18-5 mark continues the best start in the 91-year history of WKU baseball. ULM is now 9-12 overall and 3-4 in league play with the loss.
Ridings scattered eight hits in his eight innings of work, allowing just one run. The outing was his longest since he pitched eight innings in a win against Louisiana-Lafayette on May 10, 2008. He moves to 5-0 on the season with the victory, which was also the 30th of his career. He is now tied with Tommy West (Old Dominion, 1983-85) for the fourth-most victories in Sun Belt Conference history.
Matt Payton, Monte Ketchum and Casey Dykes each had two hits to power the WKU offense, and Jared Andreoli hit his second home run in as many games to put WKU ahead 2-0 in the first inning. ULM got two hits from Caleb Clowers and Judd Edwards. Matt Rice was 1-for-4 with a run to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. He is hitting .492 during the streak (30-for-61).
After Ridings retired the Warhawks in order on three groundouts in the top of the first inning, WKU jumped on ULM starter James Jones in the home-half, scoring three runs to lead 3-0 after one inning played. Payton led off with a single to right field, and Andreoli followed with a two-run home run to right field. WKU has now hit at least one home run in 10-straight games. After a Kes Carter lineout, Rice followed with a single to left and scored when Ketchum doubled down the right-field line.
Ridings continued to roll through the middle innings, allowing a baserunner in each of the second-through-fifth innings but not allowing a runner past second base. Jones settled down for ULM after the three-run WKU first inning, and he retired six-straight Hilltoppers after the first and did not allow another run until Payton doubled, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on a throwing error by Jarrett Hammond behind the plate in the bottom of the fifth.
ULM cracked the scoreboard in the top of the sixth for the first and only time in the game, taking advantage of a leadoff double by Nick Wade to cut the WKU lead to 4-1 after five-and-a-half innings. Ridings got two flyouts after the run-scoring sacrifice fly, and WKU mirrored the ULM run-scoring method and got the run back in the bottom of the sixth. Dykes led off the inning with a double of his own, moving to third on a Jake Wells single and scoring on a sacrifice fly by Matt Borgschulte.
The Hilltoppers continued to put pressure on ULM in the seventh inning, getting another run to push the lead to 6-1. Andreoli walked to start the inning and moved around the basepaths on a groundout and a flyout, before scoring on a Ketchum single to left field. In the game, WKU saw the leadoff man reach and score in four innings.
With a 6-1 lead, Ridings came out for his eighth and final inning of work. Boomer Blanchard flew out to start the inning, and Ridings hit Wade with a pitch with one out. Edwards doubled, moving Wade to third, but Ridings worked out of the one-out jam with a strikeout and a flyout to shortstop.
In his last three starts, all victories, Ridings has pitched 20.2 innings, giving up just four runs and 14 hits, good for a 1.74 ERA. He has struck out 15 and walked only three in the three outings.
After WKU went down in order in the bottom of the eighth, Rye Davis entered the game and made quick work of the Warhawks in the top of the ninth to preserve the 6-1 Hilltopper victory.
The Hilltoppers have now won 14 of their last 15 weekend games, including seven-in-a-row and the last three Friday games by a combined score of 42-6.
Up Next: WKU and ULM wrap up their three-game Sun Belt Conference weekend series with a Saturday doubleheader due to anticipated inclement weather in the Bowling Green area on Sunday. With a win in one of the two games, WKU will clinch its 15th-straight weekend series win. Game one of the doubleheader begins at 3:00 PM, and the second game will follow approximately 30 minutes after the completion of the first game.