Western Kentucky scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to rally for a 5-3 victory over the Youngstown State baseball team on Friday at Nick Denes Field.
The Penguins led 2-0 after three innings, and they held a 3-2 advantage after Jonny Miller's two-out single in the top of the seventh. WKU had four of its seven hits in the game in the seventh inning to go up 5-3, and YSU came up empty in the final two innings.
Due to rain in the forecast, the Penguins and Hilltoppers will play a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m. Eastern instead of single games on Saturday and Sunday.
Youngstown State outhit WKU 8-7, and five of those hits came from newcomers. Senior transfer Billy Salem singled in each of his first three at bats as a Penguin and finished 3-for-4, and Andrew Kendrick and Gerrad Rohan also had hits in their debuts.
After Salem provided the first hit of the season for YSU in the first inning, Kendrick's solo home run to left field with two outs in the second put the Penguins up 1-0. YSU got another two-out run in the third to go ahead 2-0 as Alex Larivee singled, stole second and came in on Salem's RBI single.
YSU starter Joe King retired the first 11 Hilltoppers he faced, and he escaped a jam after loading the bases with two outs in the fourth. WKU scored an unearned run off the lefty in the fifth, and King surrendered a walk and a double to start the sixth before exiting. Joel Hake came in and retired all three batters he faced, but Danny Hudzina came in on a passed ball to tie the score at 2-2.
Shane Willoughby drew a leadoff walk and scored on Miller's bloop single with two outs in the top of the seventh to put the Penguins back on top, but the lead was short lived. Hake hit the leadoff batter in bottom of the seventh, and a sacrifice bunt put the tying run in scoring position with one out. With the top of the order up, four of the next five Hilltoppers had base hits to plate three runs. Thomas Peter drove in the go-ahead run on a double to left, and he scored an insurance run on Paul Murray's two-out single three batters later.
YSU got the tying run on base in the top of the eighth when Salem reached on a two-out error and Rohan followed with a line drive off pitcher Kevin Elder, but Elder recovered and proceeded to strike out the final four Penguins hitters of the game to earn the save.
King allowed two unearned runs on three hits and three walks over five innings. Hake was charged with the loss, allowing two runs in 1.1 innings. Jared Wight allowed hits that drove in WKU's fourth and fifth runs in the seventh, and he pitched a scoreless eighth.
YSU had six hits and scored twice off Hilltoppers starter Austin King, and it scored its run in the seventh off eventual winning pitcher Josh Bartley. Elder finished with five strikeouts in his two innings, and WKU's three pitchers combined to strike out 12 hitters.