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September 29, 2023

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Off on the wrong foot

The men’s baseball team did not meet its own expectations this weekend.

Going into their season-opening series with Western Kentucky in Bowling Green, Ky., most of the players believed they would be able to win two out of three games.

Instead, the Hilltoppers (2-1) turned the tables on the Falcons (1-2) to take two out of three.

WKU jumped out to a lead in all three games, including a 4-0 advantage on both Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, the Falcons were unable to overcome six shutout innings by Western’s starting pitcher Matt Ridings who allowed a single unearned run while striking out eight. Nick Cantrell was charged with the loss for BG after he gave up six runs in less than four innings, though only two of those runs were earned.

At the plate, Chad Cregar led the way for the Hilltoppers. He had a single and a home run in four at-bats, and drove home four of WKU’s final 11 runs.

BG was forced to manufacture all four of its runs in the 11-4 loss. Derek Spencer and Ryan Shay each had two hits in a game that saw 18 Falcons in action.

If that number seems high for a nine-inning college game, it looked even higher after Saturday’s lengthy game.

BG coach Danny Schmitz employed 16 of his players in a 12-inning, 12-9 win, but each one seemed to play a key role in the exciting road victory. The Hilltoppers once again had a four-run inning early on, but this time the Falcons were ready to answer.

In the fourth and fifth innings, BG rallied for seven runs on doubles by Frank Berry and Mark Galvin.

‘We got some key hits today. Yesterday we had base runners, but couldn’t get that big one-out or two-out hit,’ said Berry. ‘Today we got the big hits and we got the job done.’

It didn’t look as if the Falcons would get the job done in the ninth inning when they let a four-run Western rally take the game into extra innings.

However, Berry, who transferred this year from Longwood University, came in and pitched three scoreless extra innings to shutdown any further Hilltopper offense.

‘Dusty did a good job pitching the whole time,’ said Berry of teammate Dusty Hawk who struck out four, but allowed five earned runs late in the game. ‘He just got a little tired there at the end. I had been warming up the inning before he got tired, so I was ready to go and just tried to keep warm [at first base] before I went in to pitch.’

After Berry made the move from the field to the mound in the ninth, the score remained 9-9 until the top of the 12th when the Falcons came to bat.

Derek Spencer punched a single to the right side, advanced on a Galvin groundout and scored on David Borcherdt’s key one-out single to right center. Ryan Shay came through with another single to bring home Borcherdt and Brandon McFarland.

Borcherdt’s hit was particularly impressive in the chilly Kentucky afternoon because the inning before he had been warming up a few pitchers down in the bullpen before he got the call from coach Schmitz.

Thus, the versatility of the Falcon roster emerged as one of the few positives on the weekend.

‘Saturday we went 12 innings, so we started using our bench later on,’ said coach Schmitz. ‘All the position players played over the weekend, which was definitely a good thing, but we need to keep improving overall.’

Still, the resiliency of the team showed through in some areas, especially during Saturday’s rallies.

‘We just fought back after a couple mental errors early, and we didn’t quit,’ said Logan Meisler who went 3-for-7 on Saturday, including a 12th inning double, and also scored two runs in the lone BG win. ‘We’re energized for tomorrow because today took a lot out of both teams, but we got the better of it.’

Apparently the Falcons didn’t take quite enough out of Western Kentucky because the Hilltoppers came back with a 14-9 win on Sunday. Marty Baird, Patrick Martin, Phil Hettlinger, and Charles Wooten combined to give up 12 earned runs on the afternoon.

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