BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Florida Atlantic University scored four runs in the first four innings and held on to hand the Western Kentucky University baseball team a 4-2 loss in the opener of a three-game series Friday night at Nick Denes Field.
WKU (27-19, 12-10 Sun Belt Conference) tallied a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning but could not overcome the early lead built by Florida Atlantic (27-17, 14-8). The Owls scored single runs in the second and third and two more in the fourth.
Hilltoppers third baseman Casey Dykes went 3-for-4 with three singles, giving the junior seven three-hit games this season. Six other players tallied a single hit, with left fielder Jared Andreoli's sixth-inning double accounting for the team's only extra-base hit.
WKU went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded a total of 12 baserunners, six of them in scoring position.
Hilltoppers starting pitcher Tanner Perkins (6-3) allowed four runs - three earned - on nine hits with a pair of walks and four strikeouts in 6-1/3 innings.
Owls starter Ryan Garton (4-3) limited the Hilltoppers to two runs - one earned - on seven hits while walking two and striking out three. Right-hander Hugh Adams retired the side in order in the ninth to pick up his eighth save of the year.
FAU took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Eddie Cassidy and added a run in the third on an RBI groundout by second baseman Raymond Church.
In the fourth, Cassidy drove in his second run of the game with an RBI single, and right fielder Andy Mee added a sacrifice fly.
WKU cut the Owls' lead in half in the bottom of the sixth. Andreoli drove in the first run with an RBI double, and second baseman Ivan Hartle scored on a throwing error by the right fielder.
Owls left-hander Ahmed Garcia pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings for Florida Atlantic.
The two teams return to action in the second game of the series Saturday at noon. WKU will send freshman right-hander Justin Hageman (7-4, 3.42 ERA) against FAU junior right-hander Paul Davis (8-1, 2.72). Saturday's game will be televised on the Sun Belt Network and CSS and tape-delayed locally on WKYU at 7 p.m.
"Last weekend the guys responded on Saturday after a tough Friday loss and came out and played with a lot of energy and grit," Finwood said. "And Justin Hageman had a great outing for us and we are going to need that again tomorrow."
First pitch for Sunday's series finale has been moved up to noon due to Florida Atlantic's travel plans.