NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb baseball team put on its rally caps and scored five times in the bottom of the ninth to down Western Kentucky 6-5 in nonconference action Tuesday night at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium.
“Any time you have a walk-off win it’s exciting for your team,” Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand said. “Before that ninth inning, they (WKU) outplayed us. But that is how the game of baseball goes, you can play poorly and have one good inning to win the game.
“There is something special with this team. I don’t know if it’s the team chemistry, their instinct on how to win a game or what, but this is a team that knows how to win. I can’t say enough about what our team did. It was fun to watch and proud of them.”
Trailing 5-1 entering their final at-bat, the Bisons (31-15) got things rolling when senior Jonathan Allison drew a one-out walk. Senior Tyson Ashcraft and redshirt freshman Allan Hooker followed with back-to-back run-producing doubles to cut the WKU lead to 5-3. Ashcraft went off the wall in left centerfield, while Hooker blasted his off the wall in right centerfield.
With runners standing at second and third, freshman Michael Gigliotti laced a single to centerfield to knot the game at 5-5 and move the game-winning run just 90 feet away. Following a Hilltopper pitching change, senior Grant Massey instinctively dropped a suicide-squeeze bunt down the third base line for the walk-off hit.
“Grant did a great job of getting that bunt down,” Forehand said. “He told me before the at-bat that he was going to bunt it. I said ‘if you bunt, you better make sure they are giving it to you’.
“He saw they were playing back and he took advantage. That was just a great play by him.”
The win marks the first time in 13 tries this season that the Bisons pulled out a win after trailing entering the ninth inning.
Lipscomb jumped on the board first in the home half of the third inning when freshman Michael Gigliotti reached on a bunt single. Adam Lee, who reached on a two-out walk, came around to score from first after the WKU third baseman threw the ball into right field.
WKU (24-23) took the lead in the top of the sixth when Philip Diedrick hit a two-run moon shot off left-handed reliever John Pryor into Lake Lipscomb beyond the right field fence.
The Hilltoppers tacked on two more in the seventh and one more in the eighth.
Hurler Will Blalock got the nod on the mound for the Bisons for the first time in over a year. His last start came on March 1, 2014. Blalock came up big for the Bisons tossing five scoreless frames. He allowed four hits with three strike outs and one walk.
“Will is someone we are going to need down the stretch,” Forehand said. “He threw five good innings and probably could have thrown more, but we didn’t want to push him on his first start back. That gave us a chance to win the game because he stopped the bleeding on a couple of occasions. I am so happy for him.”
Blalock’s biggest trouble came in the second stanza when the Hilltoppers’ first two batters reached base. The redshirt senior then got back-to-back infield flies, before getting a fly out to Josh Lee in right field to end the threat.
Redshirt sophomore Dalton Curtis entered in relief to pick up the win and improve to 2-0. He pitched the final 2.1 innings, giving up one run on six hits with three punch outs.
Around the Horn:
- With the win, Lipscomb’s RPI jumped to No. 69. To put that into perspective, it has never finished a season inside the top 100.
- Lipscomb is now just two wins from tying its NCAA record for wins in a season (33).
- The Bisons have now won 22 nonconference games. That is a school NCAA record for a season.
- Hooker’s double was his 10th of the season, while Ashcraft now has six.
- Gigliotti extended his on-base streak to 19 games while Chucky Vazquez has reached safely in 12 straight.
- Gigliotti was the lone Bison to record multiple hits (2-for-5).
- Freshman Lee Solomon came on to pinch-run in the ninth and would come around to score his third run of the year.
- Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand is now two wins from getting his 450th career victory. He enters the game 448-413-1 in his 15th season as a head coach.
The Bisons will stay at home this weekend to host Stetson in a three-game series at Dugan Field. Friday’s start is set for 6 p.m.