BOWLING GREEN, Ken. — The Bowling Green State University baseball team defeated Western Kentucky University 9-8 on Friday afternoon, hanging on for the extra-innings victory. The win came on the heels of a WKU comeback, as the Falcons led 8-1 after just two innings on Friday afternoon. The non-conference matchup was held at Nick Denes Field. With the win, the Falcons improve to 1-0 on the year, winning their first opening day game since 2006.
The Falcons got out to an unexpectedly quick start for the first time on a baseball field in 2013, scoring three runs in the top of the first. BGSU had only scored three combined runs in Opening Days from 2010-2012 (one run in each of the last three years in the first game).
After striking out the first two Falcons, WKU starter Justin Hageman walked the next four batters, leading to the first Falcon run. After the four walks, Logan Walker capitalized on a pitch to his liking, singling to left field, giving the Falcons a 3-0 lead after the top of the first. All nine Falcons came to the plate in the first inning.
WKU would get their first run of the game in the bottom of the first on a double to right field, scoring Scott Wilcox.
The Falcons would knock Hageman out of the game in the second inning, as he did not record an out in the inning before being replaced.
Jake Thomas led off the second inning with a walk, and he was followed by a Jesse Rait single. After Andrew Kubuski and T.J. Losby singles, the Falcons led 4-1 and WKU coach Matt Myers made the pitching change.
New pitcher Austin Clay struggled to find the strike zone out of the bullpen, walking the first two Falcons he faced. Logan Walker and Trey Keegan followed with RBI groundouts, giving the Falcons a commanding 8-1 lead after the top of the second. The Falcons, again, batted around in the second inning.
Cody Apthorpe was strong in his four innings of work on opening day before reaching his pitch limit. The redshirt junior out of Windham, Ohio struck out five batters, while walking just one. Apthorpe allowed just two earned runs, as well.
Following a Losby two-out single in the third, WKU pitchers settled in. A combination of Clay and Ian Tompkins proceeded to retire 21 straight batters, that span reaching all the way into the 10th inning.
With the Falcon offense going quiet, the Hilltoppers took the opportunity to climb back into the game. With the help of some control issues by the Falcon pitching staff, the Hilltoppers scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to make it 8-6.
The first two WKU batters reached in the eighth on singles. They were then advanced into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Blake Crabtree. Following a huge strikeout by Nick Bruns, the Hilltoppers tied it on an RBI single by Scott Wilcox.
Facing a tied game, the Falcons would work out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth to face extra innings. Bruns would retire the first two batters of the ninth, but a single followed by an error put the winning run on third base. However, Bruns would take the flip from Jeremy Shay on a grounder to first to beat the WKU runner down the line, forcing an extra inning.
In the 10th, the first two Falcons were retired before a Keegan walk would snap the streak of 21 consecutive batters retired by Hilltopper pitchers. Patrick Lancaster would pinch run for Keegan, and on the first pitch from new pitcher Taylor Haydel, Lancaster swiped second. The stolen base would prove to be big, as Brian Bien would ground one up the middle for a single. When the WKU shortstop failed to keep it on the infield, Lancaster was able to come around third and score the go-ahead run.
Nick Glanzman would make his first career appearance at third base, replacing the pinch runner Lancaster. Ben Singer would toe the rubber for the Falcons in the 10th, looking for his second career save.
Singer retired the first two batters, before a single and walk put runners on first and second with two outs. After a mound visit from pitching coach Rick Blanc, Singer would get Hilltopper 1B Ryan Huck to pop up. Jeremy Shay made the catch on the ball blowing back into fair territory, securing the win for the Falcons.
The Falcons and Hilltoppers will meet again on Saturday afternoon, with the first pitch coming at 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m CT. Mike Frank will be opposed by Tim Bado on the mound.
*Trey Keegan made his first career start at third base, picking up two walks and an RBI in the contest. Freshman Nick Glanzman also made his first career appearance as a defensive substitution in the bottom of the 10th.
*The last time the Falcons scored at least nine runs in a season-opening game was on February 28, 1998 in a 10-2 win over Eastern Kentucky.
*The last time the Falcons won a season-opening game was on February 25, 2006 at Murray State. That 8-7 win in 10 innings was also the last time the Falcons played an extra inning game to begin the season.
*Two Falcons (Losby and Bien) had multi-hit games, while three Falcons (Losby, Pitzulo, Walker) had multi-RBI games.