Sports

WKU's pitching parade stops UK

Wednesday's final score at Cliff Hagan Stadium was bold enough: Western Kentucky 6, Kentucky 3.

Perhaps the story within the story were these totals: WKU seven pitchers, UK six hits.

Despite Tuesday's 11-2 romp at Cincinnati, things are not going well for UK of late. The Wildcats were swept by Vanderbilt in a three-game series at Nashville last weekend. Western and Vandy are included in UK's gauntlet of 19 games in a 20-game span against ranked opponents.

"We left another eight guys on base. That's not happening," UK Coach Gary Henderson said. "That's clearly the issue, is trying to relax and drive guys in when you get them on."

The 18th-ranked Hilltoppers (21-5) got three innings out of starter Brian Edelen and two innings from their final pitcher, Rye Davis. In between came five others, none of whom went more than an inning.

"Our guys did a good job, for the most part, of just throwing strikes," WKU Coach Chris Finwood said.

Finwood said that was key, as UK has plenty of speed on the basepaths. The Wildcats (17-9) stole six bases Wednesday, so things could have gotten sticky for Western if UK had been able to add a bunch of walks to its six hits. Instead, UK drew just two walks, Western six.

"You want to play against the best people, and you want to play well against them," Henderson said. "Clearly, we didn't do that tonight."

Seniors Matt Payton and Jake Wells led the Hilltoppers. Payton went 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored. Wells was 4-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored.

Keenan Wiley had two of UK's six hits.

Payton, out of Male High School, said the win "means a lot. Any time you can beat an in-state rival, especially an SEC team. ... And it's big for your RPI — it's big to get you in the post-season, which is our goal."

Gunner Glad's second-inning homer gave UK a 1-0 lead. The Cats led 2-1 through four innings, 3-2 through five.

In the sixth, though, Western took the lead for good. A single, walk and hit batsman loaded the bases with one out. Payton ripped a two-run double to the gap in left-center.

An inning later, Wells singled in a run, later scoring on Payton's two-out single through the right side of the infield.

"We left a lot of people on base (12) still, but we came up and got the clutch hits when we needed them," Payton said. "And our guys pitched really well."

Payton scored Western's first run, reaching in the third when he was hit by a pitch. A wild pickoff throw by Sam Kidd moved Payton up a base and Jared Andreoli's single brought him home.

Andreoli singled and scored in the fifth, coming in on Matt Rice's groundout.

UK got a run in the fourth, when Wiley singled and stole second. He scored on Marcus Nidiffer's single.

An inning later, Chris Bisson singled, stole second and continued to third on a throwing error by Rice, the catcher. Bisson scored on Glad's groundout.

The Cats were quiet down the stretch, though, as three pitchers combined to retire the last 10 batters in a row.

"The biggest issue is we're going to have to start creating some offense," Henderson said, "or your margin of error is zero."

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