The Topper offense bailed out senior pitcher Matt Ridings in what was close to being a disappointing loss.
Junior catcher Matt Rice drove home two runs with a double in the ninth and sophomore third baseman Casey Dykes brought in Rice with a sacrifice fly to give Western (32-16, 13-9 Sun Belt Conference) a 5-4 walk-off victory over Arkansas-Little Rock Friday night at Denes Field.
“We put our one good inning of the game together there in the ninth and were able to fight there and win it,” Head Coach Chris Finwood said.
Ridings did not allow a hit until the sixth inning and struck out 10 on the night, but the game caught up to him in the eighth inning when the first three Trojan batters reached base. Two of them scored before senior pitcher Bart Carter was put into the game. Carter then gave up a two-run home run, putting Ridings in line for the loss after the eighth.
“It’s a shame he didn’t get the win tonight because he was outstanding,” Rice said. “He had all three pitches working in the zone and was staying behind even when we were making errors.”
But Rice and Dykes had the big hits in the ninth to make sure Ridings did not get the loss for the game.
“We had to do everything we could to get that win,” Dykes said. “Going into the ninth we knew we had to get it done.”
Senior second baseman Matt Payton and sophomore left fielder Jared Andreoli had the other RBIs for Western, which had trouble bringing runners home until the last inning. The Toppers combined to tally 12 hits but stranded 10 runners for the game, including ending two innings with the bases loaded.
“We let them hang around, and I had a bad feeling about it,” Finwood said. “Ridings was pitching great, but we just weren’t taking advantage of it.”
Rice said this game was a must-win for the Toppers.
“Every win from this point out in the Sun Belt Conference is a valuable one,” Rice said. “Finwood has told us, ‘every game here on out is the most important one,’ so thats the attitude we have to take into it.”
The Toppers look to win the series when they face the Trojans again at 3 p.m. Saturday with senior Shane Cameron taking the mound.