BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The WKU softball team lost its series finale with FIU 9-6 on Sunday at the WKU Softball Field. The Lady Toppers and Panthers combined for five home runs in the game, with sophomore outfielder Kelsie Mattox sluggging her 12th of the season for WKU.
FIU (22-19, 10-6 Sun Belt) led off the game with Erika Arcuri reaching on an error. After WKU's (25-17-1, 7-7-1) Emily Rousseau struck out Jessy Alfonso for the first out of the game, Ashley McClain drew a walk. With two on and one out, Brie Rojas hit a home run over the right field fence to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead. Alex Casals kept the line moving with a bunt single. Rousseau got the Lady Toppers out of the inning by getting Rachel Slowik to hit into a fielder's choice and Kelsey Grabiak to ground out to Preslie Cruce at third base.
WKU got on the board in the bottom of the first on Mattox's solo home run to center field, making the score 3-1. Karavin Dew then singled to right field and stole second. She then got to third on a passed ball. Katrina Metoyer drew a walk to give WKU runners at the corners with two outs. The Lady Toppers then put the runners in motion with Laura Smith at the plate. With Metoyer running to second, FIU catcher AJ Woodward faked to second, then threw to third to try and pick off Dew. Her throw went into left field, allowing Dew to score and Metoyer to reach third. Smith singled up the middle to bring in Metoyer, tying the game at 3-3.
The Panthers took the lead back in the top of the second with a two-out rally. Arcuri singled up the middle to keep the inning alive for FIU. Alfonso then hit the Panthers' second home run of the game, a two-run shot over the left centerfield fence, to make the score 5-3. McClain then homered to right field to five FIU a 6-3 lead. That led to a change in the circle for WKU, with Brittanie Albright coming in to the game for Rousseau. Rojas and Casals hit back-to-back singles to keep the inning alive. The two runners advanced on a wild pitch during Slowik's at bat, with Rojas scoring on a passed ball to put the Panthers ahead 7-3. All told, FIU scored four runs on five hits in the second as Albright struck out Slowik to end the inning.
The Lady Toppers chipped away at FIU's lead with single runs in the second and third innings. With one out in the second, Ciara Garcia singled to center field. She advanced to third on a groundout by Mattox. Dew drew a walk with two outs. With Amanda Thomas at the plate, FIU pitcher Mariah Dawson tossed a wild pitch that allowed Garcia to score and make the score 7-4. Metoyer drew a walk leading off the third, bringing on a pitching change as Jenn Gniadek came in for Dawson. Metoyer then stole second and scored on a double by Smith, getting WKU within two at 7-5. Smith, however, was thrown out at third trying to stretch her double to a triple. Gniadek got FIU out of the inning by getting Cruce to foul out to left field and Mallorie Sulaski to ground out.
WKU had a chance to get within one in the fourth as Olivia Watkins led off with an infield single. She advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Garcia. After Mattox flew out to centerfield, Watkins stole third with Dew up to bat. With a 2-1 count, Dew hit a grounder right at Gniadek who threw to first to end the inning. FIU scored a pair of insurance runs in the top of the sixth as McClain hit her second home run of the game, a two-run shot to left center that made the score 9-5.
Trailing by four in the bottom of the seventh, WKU got a rally started as Mattox hit an infield single to lead off the frame. Dew then hit a grounder to Rojas at second that she bobbled, allowing Dew to reach first. The runners then advanced on a passed ball. Thomas then hit a line drive off Gniadek's glove that was picked up by Rojas. Rojas threw to first to retire Thomas, with Mattox scoring to make the score 9-6. With Dew on third, Metoyer popped out to Rojas for the second out. With two out, Smith hit a high fly ball to left that was caught by Casals to end the game.
Smith and Mattox each went 2-for-4 at the plate on Sunday. Mattox scored two runs while Smith had two RBI. McClain and Rojas each had two hits and three RBI in the game. Alfonso also had two hits and drove in two runs. Gniadek got the win for FIU, allowing one unearned run in five innings while allowing four hits.
WKU is back in action next weekend as it travels to ULM for a weekend series. The Lady Toppers and Warhawks will play a doubleheader on Saturday, April 21 beginning at 2 p.m. with the nightcap scheduled for 4 p.m. The series wraps up on Sunday , April 22 with a 12 p.m. game.