BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - A nine-run seventh inning broke open a tightly played game, and the ULM baseball team cruised to a 14-6 Sun Belt Conference victory over Western Kentucky Friday night at Nick Denes Field.
ULM's (20-22, 8-11 SBC) 14 runs and 19 hits were both season-highs. The Warhawks scored nine or more runs in an inning for the second consecutive week in their series opening contest (11 against Middle Tennessee, sixth inning, April 21).
Joey Rapp slapped a 2-2 offering from reliever Ross Hammonds (0-4) down the right field line with nobody out in the top of the seventh inning, scoring Jeremy Sy from second base and putting the Warhawks on top 6-5. Brandon Alexander drove a single to the gap in right center and Judd Edwards was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Taylor Abdalla drove a 2-2 pitch into left field to plate Rapp and keep the bags full of ULM hitters (7-5). Back-to-back flares from Corben Green and Logan Fiasco upped the ULM advantage to 9-5 and chased Hammonds. A sacrifice fly from Les Aulds and a two-run single up the middle by Caleb Clowers lengthened the cushion to 12-5. Sy's fifth triple of the season deep to left center field scored Clowers all the way from first base (13-5).
Sy led all players with a 4-for-5 outing at the plate, scoring three runs. Edwards and Green contributed three hits apiece, and Green and Aulds each finished with three RBIs.
The Hilltoppers (17-25, 8-11 SBC) struck first in the bottom of the first inning, as Ryan Hutchison laced a one-out single through the left side off starter Shelby Aulds, scoring Jared Andreaoli to give Western Kentucky a 1-0 lead. Aulds retired Adam Lavelle and Devin Kelly consecutively on ground balls to strand two Hilltopper runners on base.
The first two ULM batters in the top of the second inning reached base against Justin Hageman. Rapp was hit by a pitch on a 3-0 count, and Alexander walked on four straight pitches. An Edwards sacrifice bunt moved Rapp to third and Alexander to second base. After Hageman punched out Abdalla looking, Green roped a two-out double into the gap in left center field, clearing the bases and putting the Warhawks on top 2-1.
Western Kentucky tied the game on a two-out double to left center by Andreaoli in the bottom of the second inning. Aulds forced Scott Wilcox to fly out to Alexander in center field to end the inning with the score 2-all.
Hutchison drove in his second run of the game in the top of the third, shooting a rocket shot through the left side to plate Casey Dykes and push Western Kentucky back on top 3-2. Ryan Huck ripped a single to left that brought Hutchison in from second base to chase Aulds (4-2). Kendall Thamm (3-2) retired the final two batters of the inning, including Abdalla robbing Jordan Cessna of a base hit in right field with a diving grab, to strand two runners in scoring position.
ULM loaded the bases against Hageman in the top of the fourth inning, after Edwards and Green each laced two-out singles and Fiasco drew a full-count walk. Les Aulds dropped a flare into center field, scoring Edwards and Green to tie the game at 4-4.
Thamm sat the Hilltoppers down in order in the bottom of the fourth, striking out Andreaoli and Wilcox before forcing Dykes to fly out to right field.
Edwards ripped a two-out double over the head of Andreaoli in center field in the top of the fifth inning, scoring Jeremy Sy from third base to vault ULM back in front 5-4. Sy moved into scoring position at second base following a leadoff single and a surprise bunt single placed perfectly down the third base line by Rapp.
Thamm sat down the first two hitters in the bottom of the fifth inning, but then walked the bases full of Hilltoppers with two outs. A fly out by Cessna to right field stranded all three Western Kentucky runners and allowed the Warhawks to escape the jam.
A fielder's choice off the bat of Hutchison tied the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the sixth inning. Western Kentucky's Blake Crabtree then ripped a would-be single up the middle of the diamond, but Sy laid out for the ball behind the second base bag, flipping from his glove to Clowers for the frame's third out.
Game two of the series is scheduled for a 12 p.m. first pitch Saturday. The game will be televised on CSS (Ch. 28 in Monroe) and ESPN3.com.