Tops smoke Missouri in NCAA Regional opener

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By ROB HERBST

The Daily News

rherbst@bgdailynews.com/783-3238

 

OXFORD, Miss. — Western Kentucky took command with a six-run first inning and was never seriously threatened from there today as it picked up an 11-5 win over No. 2 Missouri in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament’s Oxford, Miss., regional.

 

With the victory, the third-seeded Hilltoppers will face the winner of tonight’s meeting between No. 1 seed Ole Miss and No. 4 Monmouth at 5 p.m. Saturday. A win Saturday would put the Hilltoppers just one victory away from winning the regional and advancing to the NCAA’s Super Regional round.

 

WKU (40-18) made Missouri (34-26) pay for electing not to throw ace Kyle Gibson, an expected high Major League Baseball draft pick. Missouri instead started pitcher Nick Tepesch, who lasted only one inning and gave up five earned runs on three hits and three walks. The Tigers used eight pitchers on the day.

 

The Hilltoppers’ big blow in the first inning was a three-run homer by Wade Gaynor that crept just inside the left-field foul pole. Gaynor’s homer, which gave WKU a 3-0 lead, came one at-bat after Missouri shortstop Michael Liberto committed an error on a potential double-play ball.

 

Terrence Dayleg – who was 4-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI – added a run-scoring single in the inning. 

 

That was plenty of insurance for WKU starter Matt Ridings, who went 6 1/3 innings while giving up four earned runs on five hits and four walks. He struck out eight.

 

Ridings was especially sharp early. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, when Missouri plated three runs on Aaron

Senne’s three-run homer that cut WKU’s lead to 8-3.

 

But WKU immediately bounced back on Hightower’s two-run double in the fifth. Matt Rice also had a solo home run in the eighth. Rice was 3-for-5 with three runs and an RBI.

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