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Series Preview: Tops vs. Dawgs

(Mike Clark/HERALD)

(Mike Clark/HERALD)

What a weekend for the WKU baseball team.

Some close and impressive victories, and an outstanding performance from the pitching staff, most notably, Jake Thompson, who won Sun Belt Pitcher of the Week this past week, equals a Hilltopper sweep over Illinois. And, after a rough weekend at the Keith LeClair Classic, and a tough outing vs. Lipscomb, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered for WKU.

The Tops roll into my home state of Georgia for a five-game Peach State swing, and it all begins tonight down in Athens to take on the Georgia Bulldogs (10-6).

The Dawgs are hot as of late, as they have an eight game win streak under their belt after starting the season 2-6, with losses to ranked teams like Florida State, but also really bad instate losses to future Sun Belt school Georgia Southern (which is Georgia’s equivalent to WKU), Georgia State (who the Tops will play this weekend) and a midweek loss to Kennesaw State (which is the Georgia equivalent of a school like Northern Kentucky or Eastern Kentucky). But, since then, UGA has been on a role, although their opponents aren’t really anything to write home about. In the eight game win streak, they’ve swept Binghamton and wins against Charleston Southern, Buffalo, North Florida, Western Carolina and a 1-0 shutout over in-stat arch rival Georgia Tech. But make no mistake, the opponents aren’t impressive, but an 8-game win streak in college baseball is not an easy feat.

During the streak, the Dawgs have a combined ERA of 3.04, and allowing opposing teams to hit .304 against them, while their own offense is hitting .277, and forcing opposition’s pitching staff to a 4.75 ERA. The eight game streak is also the Dawgs’ longest since 2008, when the team not only started 8-0, but made the College World Series final.

Georgia will start two right-handers to face the Tops, with Luke Crumley (1-0, 5.62 ERA) going tonight, and Mike Mancuso (0-0, 9.00) taking the bump tomorrow. Crumley’s only decision came in the March 5th win over Charleston Southern.

Matt Myers will throw out freshman Sam Higgs for his first career start as a Hilltopper. This season out of the bullpen, Higgs has an unbelievable 3-0 record (in only six appearances), and has a 2.77 ERA. Brandon Allen, who toed the rubber in Lipscomb last week, will go tomorrow.

Aside from Georgia’s eight-game winning streak, two Dawgs have another streak of their own going – juniors Hunter Cole and Nelson Ward have each reached base safely in all 16 games UGA has played in this season. Cole also leads the Dawgs in hitting with a .350 average, a home run and 10 RBI. Ward not only leads the team in RBI with 13, but is also in the midst of an eight game hitting streak, during which Ward has two walk off hits. During the streak, junior outfielder Conor Welton is hitting a team-best .433 (13-30) with six RBI, and has a 15-game streak in which he has reached base safely.

Don’t look now, but Ryan Messex is leading the Hilltoppers in hitting, with a .353 batting average. Scott Wilcox is hitting .316 with 9 RBI, the same as Ryan Church, who’s hitting .262. Cody Wofford and his 3 HR’s and 8 RBI are hitting .250, and he and Clint Hardy are having a homecoming week, as both guys are from the Peach State, and will look to have a nice week in their home stat.

The two teams match up quite well, with WKU having better team numbers than UGA in areas like team ERA, slugging percentage, extra base hits and strikeouts.

The Tops and Commodores were matched up similarly and we all know how that worked out. The only thing that worries me is Brandon Allen going tomorrow, but hopefully he has some confidence and a hopeful W tonight will give him some confidence.

First pitch is slated for 5 p.m. CT, and we will have post game coverage right here!

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Tags: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

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