WKU SB: Bats Come Alive as Tops Down FAU 14-3 in Five Innings

DENTON, Texas – WKU Softball needed just five innings to secure a run-rule, 14-3 win over Florida Atlantic to avenge the regular-season series loss to the Owls. All nine slots in the Hilltoppers’ lineup scored a run while everyone that recorded an at bat would produce a hit for the Red and White. Taylor Sanders became the Hilltoppers’ single-season RBI record holder with four runs driven in.

“I thought offensively we did a great job, we got our pitch, kept hitting real hard and had good plate approaches,” WKU head coach Amy Tudor said of the Hilltoppers 14 runs. “Our people on the field did a great job having energy and being focused throughout the entire game.”

With the win, WKU improved to 36-12 on the 2022 campaign and ended Florida Atlantic’s season with a 29-26 reading. Across the last two seasons, WKU is now 6-1 when playing in postseason elimination games when counting conference and NCAA tournaments.

The Hilltoppers racked up a season-high 14 runs on 13 hits with 11 RBI in the win. WKU also drew a season-high eight walks across the four innings of batting.

After retiring Florida Atlantic in order to open the game, the Hilltoppers batted through the order in the bottom of the first. Jordan Ridge drew a bases-loaded RBI walk for the first run of the game as spots 1-4 would all reach base. Taylor Sanders connected for a sacrifice fly and push the lead to 2-0. From there, Randi Drinnon dropped a squeeze bunt turned single that saw Maddie Bowlds slide home safely for a 3-0 WKU lead. Drinnon went on to steal second and induce a throw to the outfield that allowed Ridge to score for a 4-0 margin. Bailey Curry followed with an RBI groundout for the 5-0 lead. Abby Newman would draw a walk before the third out would be recorded.

Shelby Nunn and the defense would retire the Owls in order again in the top of the second before returning to the dugout for another lengthy stay. Bowlds singled through the right side before Ridge took a hit by pitch to bring up Sanders with two outs. For the second day in a row, Sanders connected for a home run, pushing the Hilltopper lead to 8-0. Drinnon followed with a walk before Curry added a single following an FAU pitching change.

The top of the third saw FAU go down in order again as Nunn carried a perfect game through three innings pitched. In the bottom of the frame, WKU recorded three hits but would come away with a zero on the board after baserunning miscues.

Florida Atlantic plated three runs in the top of the fourth off Nunn to pull the score to 8-3. Katie Gardner would come in to relieve Nunn with two outs and one on. Gardner needed just four pitches to generate a ground out.

The Hilltoppers would respond by going around the order in the bottom of the fourth, scoring six runs in the process. WKU took advantage of two FAU miscues, four hits and four walks in the frame. Curry tallied two RBI with a single just inside the right field foul line for a 10-3 lead. After a fielder’s choice, Newman singled and Kasia Parks (running for Curry) would ultimately score following a Florida Atlantic error. With the bases loaded, Taylor Davis singled to centerfield and ended up on third after the Owls’ outfielder missed the ball. Three runs would score on the play with two RBI generated by Davis’ knock.

With a 14-3 lead following the big inning, WKU needed just three outs as they headed back out to the field in the top of the fifth. Gardner would pick up a pair of strikeouts for the first two outs around her lone walk of the appearance before Sanders handled a grounder at the hot corner and fired to Bowlds for the final out.

Nunn earned the win with 3.2 innings pitched in the five-inning game. She improved to 22-6 on the season while allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Nunn did not allow a free base and struck out two Owls. Gardner did not allow a hit or run in her 1.1 innings of relief.

Sanders’ four RBI brought her up to 53 on season – a new single-season program record for WKU Softball.

Curry drove in three RBI with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate. Hage and Davis each added 3-for-4 outings at the plate. Bowlds and Ridge each scored three runs after both reaching base three times. Bowlds went 1-for-2 while drawing a pair of walks and Ridge went 0-for-0 with two walks and a hit by pitch.