Western Kentucky gets walk-off homer in 18th to defeat No. 25 Kentucky
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- In a game that took nearly six hours to complete, WKU freshman outfielder Trevor Lowe sent a lead-off home run over the left-field fence in the 18th to lead WKU past in-state rival and 24th-ranked Kentuck, 3-2 Tuesday night at Bowling Green Ballpark in front of 3,571 fans.
The 18-inning thriller is believed to be the longest game in the history of WKU baseball, and is the longest Division I college baseball game this season. For Kentucky, it was the second time in as many years the Wildcats have played 18 innings or more, as Kentucky played a 21-inning game against Kent State in the NCAA Regional last season.
In all, 553 total pitches were thrown by 13 total pitchers, with 122 total at-bats and 32 combined strikeouts on the night. WKU struck out 12 Kentucky batters, while Kentucky fanned 20 WKU batters through the 18-inning game.
“That was a tremendous college baseball game, just a war of attrition,” WKU head coach Matt Myers said. “It was really a game of the last man standing. You could tell guys were swinging the bats really slow and pitchers were starting to dominate. We started stretching at 3 [p.m.], so we were out here nine hours. That’s pretty amazing, what our guys did. They kept fighting.”
The extra-inning game was WKU’s first in nine games at Bowling Green Ballpark, which includes three games in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in 2012. The win for WKU gave the Hilltoppers the series sweep over the Wildcats for the fourth time since the 2002 season, and gives WKU six wins against Kentucky in the last seven meetings, marking the best seven-game stretch over Kentucky in school history.
WKU has now gone a perfect 3-0 against Kentucky and Louisville in 2013, with the Hilltoppers set to take on Louisville next Tuesday on the road. A win in that game would be the first time since the 1996 season that WKU has swept the season series from both Kentucky and Louisville.
For Trevor Lowe, it was his second home run of the year. He also homered on the road against FIU back in late March. The walk-off win was the second in as many games at Bowling Green Ballpark this season, as Regan Flaherty led the Hilltoppers to walk-off win back on April 9 against eighth-ranked Louisville. WKU is now 6-0 all-time in regular season games at Bowling Green Ballpark, with all six wins coming against Louisville and Kentucky.
The win also gives WKU three wins over teams ranked in the top-25 this season, marking the first time since 2005 that the Hilltoppers have beaten three top-25 teams in the same season.
Both teams would have their fair share of chances throughout, as the two squads left a total of 33 runners on base. The Hilltoppers would put the winning run in scoring position in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings, but were unable to scratch across a run. WKU would then load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the 14th, but back-to-back strikeouts and a groundout would end the Hilltoppers’ threat in that inning.
Kentucky would have chances, as well, loading the bases in the 17th, while putting runners in scoring position in three of the nine extra innings.
Runs were scored in only four of the 18 innings, including each team scratching across runs in the 13th. After Austin Cousino reached third on an error in the top half of the 13th, A.J. Reed would double home the go-ahead run making it 2-1. But WKU would respond, plating the tying run in the bottom-half, as Jordan Cessna reached on an error, scoring Matthew Paculan from third base to tie things back up at two. In all, 13 of the 18 innings were played with the score tied.
Seven WKU pitchers were used in the 18-inning game, with the WKU bullpen combining to toss 12.2 innings of relief, allowing just one unearned run, on just four total hits, striking out eight. Freshman Josh Bartley would work the longest out of the Hilltopper bullpen, tossing four complete innings, allowing just two hits.
WKU starter Justin Hageman would have his second consecutive solid start, working 5.1 innings, allowing just one run on four hits, while striking out four and walking only two. In his last two starts, Hageman has worked 10.1 innings, allowing just two earned runs.
Steve Hodgins opened up the scoring for WKU in the third inning, ripping his second career triple, and would later score in the inning on an RBI-double by Scott Wilcox. Hodgins finished the game with three hits, good for his fourth-straight multi-hit game and his second career three-hit game. The RBI for Wilcox was his 19th of the year, and gave him hits in nine out of his last 12 games.
In all, five Hilltoppers would put together multi-hit games, including three of the first four Hilltopper batters in the lineup. WKU would out-hit Kentucky in the game, 14-8.