BASEBALL: Toppers push past Kentucky, win battle of Bluegrass rivals

Western shortstop Matt Payton attempts to tag out Kentucky's Neiko Johnson during the first inning of their game at Kentucky Wednesday night. The Toppers won the game 6-3. CHRIS FRYER/HERALD

LEXINGTON — It took longer than expected for Western’s bats to get going against Kentucky, but the Toppers were able to take advantage of the Wildcat relievers Wednesday night and take a victory.

Western (21-5, 6-0 Sun Belt Conference) scored five runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to pull ahead of Kentucky, running away to a 6-3 win.

“Everybody wants to beat UK,” sophomore outfielder Jared Andreoli said. “It’s just another stepping stone for us.”

With the win, the Toppers have won nine straight road games as well as eight straight games overall in addition to improving to 12-2 away from Denes Field this season.

“It’s always big to win a road game, especially against a team in the state like UK,” Head Coach Chris Finwood said.

Senior shortstop Matt Payton belted a two-run double in the sixth inning to give the Western the lead for good. He added an RBI single in the seventh inning.

“His first two at-bats, he crushed two balls and he got nothing to show of it,” Finwood said. “The next two he got the two clutch hits.”

Senior first baseman Jake Wells had a game-high four hits and two runs.

Junior Brian Edelen pitched three innings, giving up just one run. Six pitchers finished the game, with freshman Taylor Haydel picking up his first career win. Sophomore Rye Davis pitched two inning to get his fifth save of the year.

The pitching staff struck out 11 and only gave up two walks.

“Our guys did a good job of throwing strikes and not giving up many walks,” Finwood said.

Junior catcher Matt Rice was hitless in his four at-bats and has now only gotten one hit in his last three games.

Western is now 3-2 against the Southeastern Conference this season. Kentucky will travel for a rematch against Western on April 20 at the Bowling Green Ballpark.

-Mike Stunson

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