WKU Softball tops UNCG before falling to #12 Duke in NCAA Tournament

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU Softball opened Saturday with an 8-4 elimination-game win over UNC Greensboro to extend its season another game before falling to No. 13-seeded Duke, 4-0, in a 12-inning heartbreaker from the NCAA Tournament Athens Regional. The Hilltoppers close the season at 32-15 after going 5-1 in postseason elimination games.

Western Kentucky started off Saturday’s high-stakes matchup vs. UNC-Greensboro with an offensive flurry, as the ‘Tops exploded for a 4-0 lead in their first trip to the plate thanks to two-run home runs from both Kennedy Sullivan and Taylor Sanders.

WKU tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the fourth to extend its lead out to 8-0. Kennedy Sullivan struck for a bases-loaded base hit to advance everyone 90 feet and push the Hilltopper lead to 5-0 before Brylee Hage sent a bases-clearing double to left center, making the score 8-0.

The Spartans fought back in their next trip to the plate and cut the deficit down to four runs, but the Hilltoppers retired the last seven batters for UNCG to get the final say.

Shelby Nunn earned the win with 4.2 innings of three-hit ball. Nunn improved to 13-5 on the year with the decision. Katie Gardner worked the final 2.1 innings of the game, allowing zero UNCG baserunners in relief.

There was no time to celebrate, though, as the Hilltoppers turned right around for another elimination game following their win against the Spartans. In WKU Softball’s longest game since the 2017 postseason, the Hilltoppers dropped a heartbreaker to No. 12 ranked Duke. The sides stayed scoreless until the final frame when Duke struck for four runs off a pair of Hilltopper errors.

The Hilltoppers are now 5-1 all-time in games that last 12 innings or longer.

Gardner would toss 7.0 scoreless innings against the Blue Devils to open the game and allowed just three hits. Nunn would work the final 5.0 frames of the game in relief. She allowed just four hits and one earned run while striking out three.

Sanders went 3-for-5 in the game while Sullivan and Maddie Bowlds each added hits as well.

Bowlds set a new single-game record with 20 putouts in the outing. She passed head coach Amy Tudor and Shelly Floyd who were both tied at 19.