TROY, Ala.—Trailing 3-1 heading into the seventh inning, No. 7 ULM exploded for 10 runs in the next two frames to blow past No. 2 Western Kentucky 11-3 to stay alive in the Sun Belt Conference Baseball Tournament at Riddle-Pace Field.
The game was originally scheduled to be played last night at 7:30 p.m., but heavy rains in the Troy, Ala., area forced the game into a 9 a.m. start Saturday. The start of the game was then delayed again for 58 minutes prior to first pitch.
The Warhawks (31-26) and
Hilltoppers (39-17) will now meet again at approximately 5:30 p.m. for the
right to face either Middle Tennessee or Louisiana-Lafayette in the
championship game -- the Blue Raiders and Ragin’ Cajuns play at 2 p.m.
The remainder of the tournament will be televised live on CST. It was first announced that the game would be televised on CSS, however a scheduling conflict has now forced the game off the network. The championship game will be televised on both CSS and CST.
ULM has now outscored its last three opponents in the tournament 40-6 since falling behind South Alabama 6-0 in the third inning of the second game in the tournament.
Perry Smith, who tied the tournament records for doubles with five earlier in the game, started the rally with a one-out home run to right field in the bottom of the seventh inning. Smith finished the game 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
Following the second out of the inning, Jon Prevost drew a six-pitch walk. He moved to second on a wild pitch forcing the Hilltoppers to intentionally walk Ben Soignier. Soignier, who is one hit away from tying ULM’s all-time record, drew three walks and was hit by a pitch in the game.
Western Kentucky then brought in a left-hander Evan Teague to face Matt Collins. Collins, who had made several run-saving defensive plays at first base earlier in the game, punched a 1-0 single to left field to score Prevost and tie the game. Collins finished the game 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
Josh Miller, who was in relief of starter Keith Christensen, struck out Jake Wells to lead off the eighth inning and then issued a six-pitch walk to pinch hitter C.J. Wamsley. Soignier then moved from shortstop to the pitcher’s mound and struck out lead-off hitter Jared Andreoli and got Matt Hightower to fly out to left field.
Soignier (1-0) earned the win for the Warhawks allowing just one hit over 1.2 innings of work. Christensen was brilliant for the Warhawks in the start allowing just three runs on six hits over six innings.
Nick Wade and Jordy Poche led off the eighth with back-to-back doubles and Smith followed with an RBI single back up the middle. Poche finished the game 2-for-5 with a pair of runs scored.
Following a walk and a fielder’s choice, Soignier was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Collins who responded with a single to left to plate two. WKU changed pitchers for Matt Laird who took a 0-2 offering back up the middle for an RBI. Ryan McMillan followed with a two-run double to left and later scored on a throwing error by WKU.
Western Kentucky took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning on a triple by Terrence Dayleg to left-center field scoring Hightower.
The Hilltoppers caught a break in the fifth inning as Hightower appeared to ground into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play, but the Warhawks had trouble with the initial exchange allowing Wells to score from third on the play.
Soignier drew a bases loaded walk in the fifth inning tying the game at 1-1.
The Hilltoppers pushed their
lead back out to two runs, 3-1, on a RBI single by Matt Rice after Hightower walked
and Chad Cregar had a two-out single. J.B. Paxson (3-1) took the loss for WKU allowing six runs on four hits in just two-thirds of an inning of work. Shane Cameron made a great start for WKU allowing just three hits and three runs over 6.2 innings -- his one weakness was a team-high eight walks issued.