BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — En route to a season-high 18 hits in a 14-4 victory over Illinois-Chicago Friday afternoon at Nick Denes Field, the 23rd-ranked Hilltoppers saw every position player starter reach base, eight of nine record both a hit and a run scored and seven drive in at least one run. The 14 runs tied a season-high, and the 18 hits eclipsed the previous mark of 14, set against Kent State on February 20. The win moves WKU to 7-2 on the season, and Illinois-Chicago falls to 1-7.
Four Hilltoppers recorded three hits, with Kes Carter going 3-for-6, Monte Ketchum finishing 3-for-4 with a double, home run, three runs scored and three RBI, Matt Payton putting together his second three-hit outing in three games with a 3-for-5 contest and Jake Wells turning in a 3-for-5 performance. Ketchum's three RBI and three runs scored were tops on the team for the game. Payton and Logan Robbins each homered as well for WKU, and both did so against Austin Peay two games earlier.
Matt Ridings, the reigning Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Week, pitched six innings and allowed six hits for his second win of the season and 27th of his career. He is now just one win away from tying Ryan Hutchison for most pitching victories in WKU baseball history. Scott Pedersen and Caleb Hanes, each making their first appearances as Hilltoppers, combined to work the final three innings without allowing a run and only two hits. The Hilltopper bullpen still has allowed only one run in the seventh inning or later all season, a 0.35 ERA and a .152 opponent batting average in those three innings.
Neither team scored a run in the first inning, but each had a double and a free pass, as John Rosinski doubled and Chris Rutta was hit by a pitch for Illinois-Chicago in the top of the first, and Carter knocked a two-bagger and Matt Rice walked after a 10-pitch at-bat for WKU in the home-half.
The Flames pushed across a run in the top of the second off Ridings on a lead-off home run by Jason Ganek. WKU stormed back with three in the bottom of the second, thanks to a double by Ketchum, his first career WKU hit, a one-out single to right by Wells that scored Ketchum and a two-run double to right-center by Carter that plated Wells and Robbins, who reached on an error.
The Hilltoppers put together four-straight singles in the bottom of the third on their way to three more runs to take a 6-3 lead after three innings. After Ridings faced four batters and retired the Flames in the top of the fourth, WKU scored three runs for the third-straight inning in the bottom of the fourth. Rice grounded out to start the inning, and Casey Dykes followed with a single. Ryan Huck reached on a fielder's choice, and Dykes moved to second on the play as the shortstop had a miscue trying to throw him out. Ketchum followed with a home run to right field on an 0-2 pitch from Illinois-Chicago starting pitcher Chris Kovacevich, putting WKU ahead 9-3.
Ridings worked his first one-two-three inning in the top of the fifth, and WKU scored two more in their fourth of five-straight multi-run innings in the bottom of the fifth. After Illinois-Chicago managed a run in the top of the sixth, Payton led off the bottom-half with his second home run of the season and Robbins followed with his second of 2010 one batter later.
After going nearly six games without a home run to start the season, WKU has now hit eight in its last three-plus contests.
With a 13-4 lead after six innings, WKU went to the bullpen and handed the ball over to Pedersen. He set down the Flames in order in the top of the seventh and worked around a one-out double to escape the eighth with no damage, and WKU scored its final run of the game in the bottom of the eighth.
Hanes entered in the top of the ninth and gave up a lead-off double to new Illinois-Chicago catcher Ryan Meehan. But he got a strikeout looking and two flyouts to end the game and wrap up the 14-4 WKU victory.
The Hilltoppers have won seven of their last eight games.
Kovacevich took the loss for Illinois-Chicago and is now 0-3 on the season.
Up Next: The Hilltoppers and the Flames will be back at it for game two of the three-game series Saturday afternoon at 2:00 at Nick Denes Field. Tanner Perkins is slated to make his third start of the season for WKU.