Hilltoppers take down No. 4 Louisville to complete Bluegrass State sweep
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Western Kentucky jumped on No. 4 Louisville right out of the gate and did not let up Wednesday night at Jim Patterson Stadium as the Hilltoppers completed their Bluegrass State sweep with a 7-3 victory against the nationally-ranked Cardinals.
The Hilltoppers (21-17) scored seven runs in four innings on a Louisville (31-10) pitching staff that entered the week with the nation's fifth lowest ERA (2.34). Senior first baseman Ryan Church played a part in two first-inning scores and capped a four-run fourth inning with an RBI double to spark WKU to its fifth win in the past six games.
The triumph at No. 4 Louisville marked WKU's eighth win against a Top 25 program under head coach Matt Myers. Five of those eight victories have come against Top 10 teams and five have also come on the road. The Hilltoppers' win against Louisville is the second-highest ranked win in program history, trailing only a 2014 victory at No. 1 Louisiana-Lafayette.
WKU's victory also finished off a 4-0 sweep of in-state rivals as they also defeated Kentucky twice and Murray State. The Hilltoppers swept Kentucky and Louisville for the first time since 2006 and finished 2015 undefeated against in-state schools for the first time since 1987. The win also snapped an eight-game losing skid in Louisville dating back to 2006.
WKU tallied 11 hits against the highly-touted Louisville pitching staff, making it just the sixth team to record 10 or more hits against the Cardinals in 2015. Five players had a pair of hits, headlined by Church, who finished his night 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored.
Right-hander Josh Bartley was efficient on a planned staff day as he tossed four innings of three-hit baseball to earn his fifth win. He worked three scoreless innings to open the game and surrendered his lone run on a two-out double with WKU already leading 7-0.
Bartley's win was his fourth against a Top 10 team in his career and the second time he has been the pitcher of record against a Top 10 Louisville team.
Already leading 3-0, the Hilltoppers continued their hot start by exploding for four decisive runs in the fourth inning. Paul Murray reached base on an infield single to start the explosive frame and came home to score on a single from Leiff Clarkson to make the advantage 4-0 in WKU's favor. A two-out balk from Lincoln Henzman scored Ryan Messex and pushed the lead to five runs before the count was all of a sudden 7-0 following back-to-back two-out RBI hits from Danny Hudzina and Church.
WKU's seven runs were the most allowed by the Cardinals since they surrendered eight in a loss to Ole Miss on March 11.