BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The 26th-ranked Hilltoppers scored 16 runs in the second inning before Kentucky recorded an out and went on to blast the rival Wildcats, 24-8, in front of 6,183 fans at Bowling Green Ballpark Tuesday night. The crowd was the largest to ever see a home WKU baseball game, doubling the previous high of 3,057 at Nick Denes Field on April 23, 2008. The 24 runs are the most runs scored in the Chris Finwood era and the highest WKU run total since the team scored 29 runs in a win against Austin Peay on May 17, 2005. WKU snaps a four-game losing streak with the win and moves to 28-12 on the year, while Kentucky falls to 22-15.
Matt Rice reached base in all six plate appearances and was 5-for-6 on the night, tying a career high for hits in a game. Matt Payton went 3-for-4 with four RBI and three runs scored. Jake Wells had three hits and scored three runs as well, one of six Hilltoppers who scored at least three runs. Each player in the WKU starting lineup had at least one hit, with seven having multiple hits. The 24 runs and 21 hits are season highs for the Hilltoppers, who have defeated Kentucky twice in the same season for the first time since 2003.
The 16-run margin of victory was also the largest in 52 all-time meetings between the in-state rivals.
After WKU starting pitcher Brian Edelen walked the first Kentucky batter of the game, Andy Burns reached on a fielder's choice and advanced to third on a single to center field by Chad Wright. Edelen got a big strikeout of Gunner Glad for the second out of the inning, and Burns was thrown out at the plate trying to score while the Hilltoppers attempted to retire Wright, who was picked off first base, and Kentucky could not score in the first.
WKU broke open the scoring in the bottom of the first, when Payton singled, stole second and scored on a Rice single to center field. Jared Andreoli, who walked, scored the second WKU run when the catcher made an errant throw trying to back-pick Andreoli off third base.
Edelen gave up a leadoff single in the Kentucky second before getting three-straight outs to retire the side, and WKU opened the floodgates for 16 runs on 13 hits in the bottom of the second to lead 18-0 after two innings.
The Hilltoppers sent 16 men to the plate before Kentucky was able to record an out, with eight of the first nine getting hits and the other walking. Casey Dykes, Wells and Logan Robbins singled to start the inning and Kory Petri walked to load the bases. Payton then doubled to right field, plating Wells and Robbins, and Andreoli followed with a single to right that scored two more. Rice doubled, already the sixth WKU hit of the inning, and Kes Carter greeted a new Kentucky pitcher with a first-pitch, three-run home run to deep right-center field, his second home run in as many games.
The Hilltoppers were just getting started in the inning, as Huck, the ninth hitter of the inning, doubled to deep left field, and Dykes and Wells each had their second singles of the inning. Still with no outs, Robbins was hit by a pitch and Petri walked for the second time in the inning, loading the bases once again for Payton. The senior delivered, knocking a single to center field that scored two more runs. In the second inning, Payton himself was 2-for-2 with four RBI.
Andreoli and Rice then went back-to-back with home runs after Payton knocked in two runs, with Andreoli's being the second three-run home run of the inning. At that point WKU lead 18-0, still with no outs in the second inning, but Kentucky was able to retire the next three Hilltoppers, the 17th, 18th and 19th men to hit in the inning, to finish the frame.
Edelen walked the first hitter he faced in the top of the third after a long layoff, but once again set down the next three he faced. The Hilltoppers scored four more runs in the bottom of the third, highlighted by a Robbins two-run home run, WKU's season-high fourth round-tripper of the game.
In scoring 22 runs after just three at-bats, WKU had bettered by one its run production from the last four games combined.
The scoring in the middle innings slowed down, and Kentucky was able to score seven runs in the final two innings to make the final score 24-8.
Edelen earned his fourth win of the season with five innings of five-hit baseball, and Ross Hammonds pitched two solid innings of relief and only surrendered two hits. Joe Devine took the loss for Kentucky.
Up Next: The 26th-ranked Hilltoppers travel to Louisville, Ky., for a 5:00 PM (CT) showdown with the 11th-ranked Cardinals. The Hilltoppers and Cardinals played a nailbiter at Nick Denes Field on April 14, with Louisville winning, 7-6. After the game against Louisville, WKU returns home for a three-game Sun Belt Conference weekend series Friday-Sunday against FIU.