April 30, 2014
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - WKU saw its 6-2 lead shrink to 6-5 late Tuesday night at Austin Peay, but junior closer Ian Tompkins struck out Governors' outfielder Cayce Bredlau with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to break WKU's single-season saves record while preserving the Hilltoppers' 6-5 win at Raymond C. Hand Park.
Tompkins recorded the last four outs of the game for WKU (24-21), which included inning ending strikeouts in the eighth and ninth frames for his 12th save of the year. His 12 saves are tied for the sixth most in the nation in 2014 and break Matt Wilhite's former record of 11 during the 2003 season.
Freshman southpaw Ryan Thurston shined in his fourth-straight midweek start for WKU, striking out six batters , scattering five hits and giving up three runs over seven innings to earn his first-career win. Thurston did not allow a Governor to enter scoring position in innings two through six and threw three perfect innings. He registered his second quality start in the past three weeks, striking out 16 batters and allowing three runs over his last 23 innings pitched.
Austin Peay (18-27) jumped on Thurston for two runs in the first inning courtesy Alex Robles' two-run double, but the rookie left-hander settled from there, allowing just four base runners over his final six innings of work.
WKU wouldn't allow the Governors' 2-0 lead to last long, as it scored five of its six runs in the top of the second to take control of the game. Freshman third baseman Leiff Clarkson kick started WKU's big inning with an RBI single that plated junior shortstop Cody Wofford while senior outfielder David Simmons scored on a passed ball to tie the game at 2-2.
Following Simmons run, senior outfielder Regan Flaherty put another run on the board by smacking a double into the right center gap to score sophomore designated hitter Trevor Lowe. That set the stage for senior second baseman Scott Wilcox, who drove in Clarkson and Flaherty with a rocket up the middle to make the count 5-2, WKU. Wilcox's two RBI marked his 20th career multi-RBI game.
Thurston's dominance on the mound allowed WKU to cruise into the seventh, where the Hilltoppers and Governors traded runs. Junior first baseman Ryan Church blasted a double off the left center wall to score Flaherty in the frame to extend WKU's lead to 6-2 before Austin Peay's Ridge Smith jacked a solo homer in the bottom half.
With WKU's lead down to 6-3, Austin Peay generated two more runs in the eighth, one off a WKU throwing error and the other courtesy of an RBI groundout from Robles. With a runner on second and two outs in the inning, WKU turned to Tompkins to get out of the jam. Tompkins responded by striking out Austin Peay's Dre Gleason.
The Governors made things interesting in the ninth by putting runners on second and third with one out, but Tompkins buckled down in the crucial moment. He forced Griffin Ganick into a weak pop fly, intentionally walked Garrett Copeland to enable a force out at any base before fanning Bredlau to end the game.
Tuesday's game was delayed nearly three hours due to heavy rain in the area, but the teams got underway at 8:45 (CT). Tompkins' game-ending strikeout came nearly 15 minutes past midnight central time.
With the win, WKU won its 62nd straight game when leading after nine innings and improved to 29-25 in one-run games under head coach Matt Myers. The Hilltoppers are 19-9 in their last 27 games that have been decided by one run.
WKU returns home Wednesday night to host Belmont in Cancer Awareness Night at Nick Denes Field. All cancer survivors are invited to attend the game with the opportunity to be recognized during a pre-game ceremony. Survivors will receive a complementary ticket, while also receiving a white sash complements of the American Cancer Society. All family and guests of cancer survivors can also purchase family and guest tickets for just $2. The first 250 fans at the game will receive a Strike Out Cancer T-Shirt from WKU Athletics.
For tickets and more information on WKU Baseball, call 1-800-5 BIGRED or visit WKUSports.com.
How to Follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Baseball, follow the team's social media channels, @WKUBaseball on Twitter and Instagram and WKUBaseball on Snapchat.