BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Trailing 6-5 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh of game two, the WKU softball team pulled out a 7-6 win on a two-out, two-RBI single by Kelsie Mattox. The win got the Lady Toppers a split of their doubleheader with the FIU Panthers at the WKU Softball Field on Saturday, with FIU winning the first game 4-1.
WKU (25-16-1, 7-6-1 Sun Belt) took an early 2-0 lead in game two. Ciara Garcia led off by reaching on an error. Mattox then laid down a bunt, but FIU (21-18, 9-5) third baseman Jessy Alfonso did not make a play, giving the Lady Toppers runners at first and second. After Karavin Dew sacrificed to advance the runners, Amanda Thomas hit an RBI single to give WKU a 1-0 lead. Katrina Metoyer then hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Mattox to put the Lady Toppers ahead 2-0.
WKU added another run in the bottom of the third. With two out, Dew and Thomas hit back-to-back singles. Metoyer then drew a walk to load the bases. Laura Smith then hit a ball to the Panthers' second baseman Brie Rojas who bobbled the ball, allowing Dew to score and put the Lady Toppers up 3-0. FIU got on the board in the top of the fourth as Rachel Slowik hit a two-RBI double to left center field. With the bases loaded and one out, Kim Wagner entered the game to replace Mallorie Sulaski in the circle. Wagner promptly got Erika Arcuri to ground into a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning, with WKU leading 3-2.
FIU tied the game in the top of the fifth. Alfonso drew a walk to lead off the inning. After Ashley McClain flew out, Rojas and Alex Casals hit back-to-back singles to load the bases. Kelsey Grabiak then knocked an RBI base hit to left field, scoring Alfonso and making the score 3-3. Slowik then grounded into a fielder's choice as Preslie Cruce threw out Rojas at home plate for the second out. Wagner got out of the inning by striking out Lindsey Menezes.
Dew put the Lady Toppers back in front in the bottom of the inning, leading off with a home run that just got inside the left field fair pole. Up 4-3, WKU threatened to add more runs as Metoyer reached on an error that was followed up by Smith being hit by a pitch from FIU's Jenn Gniadek. Both runners advanced on a Sulaski groundout, with Metoyer scoring on a wild pitch during Cruce's at bat to give the Lady Toppers a 5-3 lead. Cruce walked to give WKU runners at the corners, but Gniadek got Olivia Watkins to ground out to end the inning.
FIU came back with two runs in the top of the sixth, as Casals' single to left tied the game 5-5. The Lady Toppers had a chance to take the lead back in the bottom half of the frame. Mattox doubled to left field with one out and reached third on a Dew single. Thomas then hit a ground ball to Slowik at shortstop, who threw home to put Mattox out for the second out of the inning. With runners at the corners, Metoyer walked to load the bases. Smith then stepped up to the plate, but flew out to center field to end the inning. The Panthers took the lead in the top of the seventh as AJ Woodward hit a home run over the right center field fence, putting FIU ahead 6-5.
Needing one run to tie and two to win, Sulaski led off the WKU half of the seventh with a single. After a ground out, Watkins drew a walk. Garcia then grounded out to Rojas, advancing the runners to second and third with two out. Mattox then stepped into the batters' box, and knocked a 1-2 pitch into centerfield that scored both Sulaski and Watkins to give WKU the 7-6 win.
Mattox went 2-for-5 in the nightcap with two RBI and a run scored. Dew was 3-for-3 with two runs scored. Wagner got the win in relief, striking out three in 3.2 innings pitched. Casals was 3-for-4 at the plate for FIU in game two, with two RBI. Gniadek took the loss for FIU, allowing eight hits and four walks while striking out four.
WKU struck first in game one, as Cruce hit a home run in the bottom of the third to give the Lady Toppers a 1-0 lead. Emily Rousseau was effective early in the circle for WKU, allowing one hit in the first three innings. FIU got on the board in the top of the fourth. Alfonso led off with a double, followed by McClain reaching on a fielder's choice. Casals brought both runners in to score with a two-RBI double, reaching third on a throwing error by Smith in right field. Slowik then knocked a home run over the left field fence to put FIU ahead 4-1.
The Panthers' four runs in the fourth would be all the scoring they needed to win the first game of the day. FIU starting pitcher Mariah Dawson allowed just two WKU hits in the final three innings to give the Panthers a 4-1 win.
Both starting pitchers went the distance in the opener. Dawson struck out five batters and allowed six hits for her 16th win of the season. Rousseau also allowed six hits, but struck out seven batters. Slowik went 2-for-3 at the plate in game one with two RBI. Six different Lady Toppers had a hit in game one, with Cruce's fifth home run of the season the only hit that brought in a run.
WKU and FIU will conclude their Sun Belt Conference series on Sunday with a 12 p.m. game at the WKU Softball Field.