After a 347-day hiatus, the the Western Kentucky baseball team picked up right where it left off in 2020, earning a season-opening 10-4 victory over North Dakota State on Sunday night at Nick Denes Field.
After a slow start that led to a 4-1 deficit after three innings, the Hilltoppers found their rhythm and went on to score nine unanswered runs, leading to the eventual 10-4 win.
“This team, especially this lineup, has been together for a while,” WKU head coach John Pawlowski said in a news release. “They’ve been through some great battles. They’re not going to get down, they know what they have to do and they’re very confident in their approach.
“They just stayed the course today and kept grinding and took advantage of a couple mistakes. Then the next thing you know we go from being down 4-1 to being up 10-4. It’s just the type of group that we have – an experienced lineup up and down. I’m just really proud of the way they went about their business today.”
Sean Bergeron got the starting nod on the mound for WKU in its season opener, compiling 4.2 innings of action while allowing three earned runs and striking out five batters. Jake Kates entered in the fifth frame to relieve Bergeron, picking up the win after allowing just one hit and fanning seven in 4.1 frames.
On a chilly day with snow still visible on the field, it was the Hilltoppers’ hot bats that really helped push them over the edge. WKU racked up 12 hits and 10 RBIs on the night, with three players recording multi-hit efforts.
Richard Constantine and transfer Jackson Gray led the squad with three hits apiece, while Ray Zuberer III added two hits and a team-high four RBIs.
North Dakota State opened the scoring in the first frame, using an RBI-double and sac fly to take an early 2-0 lead.
The Hilltoppers got on the board in the bottom of the second, with Gray scoring Jackson Swiney off a single to right field.
The Bison extended their lead in the top of the third, using an RBI triple and RBI single to make it 4-1.
WKU started to claw back from there, as an RBI single by Kevin Lambert and an RBI by Jack Wilson put the score at 4-3 after four frames.
The Hilltoppers took their first lead of the game in the sixth, with an RBI single to left field by Constantine evening the contest at 4-4 before a two-RBI single by Zuberer made it 6-4 in favor of WKU.
WKU added some security runs in the seventh, with a two-run double by Constantine and two-run single by Zuberer giving the Hilltoppers a 10-4 lead and the eventual win.