NORFOLK, Va. (ODUSports.com) – The No. 23-ranked Old Dominion baseball team sent out its 2021 senior class on a high note with a run-rule shortened 13-2 win over Western Kentucky on Sunday afternoon at the Bud Metheny Baseball Complex.
The Hilltoppers (25-27, 15-17 Conference USA) got the best of starting pitcher Ryne Moore early, scoring two runs on three hits in the top of the first. With the bases loaded and two outs, WKU threatened to put up an even bigger number, but Moore got out of danger with his second strikeout of the frame.
Once out of that first-inning jam, Moore was superb. Pitching in his final game at the Bud, the right hander out of Limerick, Pennsylvania allowed just one more hit in his 6.2 innings of work while striking out five Hilltoppers to improve his record to 7-1 on the season.
The Monarchs (36-14, 22-10) wasted little time before gaining the lead with four runs on four hits in the bottom of the first. Kyle Battle turned on the second pitch he saw for a leadoff home run out to right center – his 17th homer of the season. Kenny Levari then reached on a bunt single. Three batters later, Matt Coutney laced a hit into left field to drive home Levari and tie the score at 2-2. Tommy Bell was then hit by a pitch to load the bases, setting up a two-run single off the bat of Thomas Wheeler.
With the emotions of Sunday’s Senior Day ceremony behind him and with a 4-2 lead, Moore began to deal. He faced the minimum in the top of the second as Carter Trice turned a double play to erase a single from Ray Zuberer III. Moore then spun a perfect top of the third, inducing three harmless grounders from the bats of WKU.
Wheeler drove home two more runners in the bottom of the third to push ODU’s advantage to 6-2. Coutney doubled with one out before moving up 90 feet on a Bell single. With runners on the corners, Wheeler doubled down the line in right to empty the bases.
Batting eighth on Sunday, Wheeler was 3-for-4 with four runs driven in. His three hits matched a season high.
Moore quickly turned the ball back over to the Monarchs’ offense with another perfect frame in the top of the fourth. In the bottom of the inning, Bell lofted a sacrifice fly into left field to drive in Trice, who reached on a leadoff walk.
Western Kentucky led off the top of the fifth with a walk, snapping a streak of seven consecutive retired batters from Moore, but nothing more would come from the visitor’s half of the inning. ODU tacked on another run in the bottom of the fifth on a Trice double.
Moore notched three quick outs in the top of the sixth, setting up another big inning from the Monarchs’ bats. ODU scored five runs on five hits in the bottom of the sixth to bring the 10-run rule into effect.
Bell got the inning going with a one-out single up the middle. Wheeler collected his third hit of the day to put runners on the corners. With Ryan Teschko at the plate, the Monarchs executed a double steal with Wheeler taking second and Bell coming home to score Old Dominion’s ninth run of the game.
With Wheeler now in scoring position, Teschko hit a single into center to drive in Wheeler. Levari then singled to load the bases, setting up a two-run single off the bat of Trice. The Monarchs scored their final run of the game off a wild pitch with two outs in the inning.
Moore started the top of the seventh with a strikeout before inducing a groundout to Bell. With the game well in hand, head coach Chris Finwood went to his bullpen to allow Moore to exit to a standing ovation from the 500-plus fans inside the Bud. Senior Brett Smith came on in relief and got the last out of the game in short order.
The Monarchs racked up 16 hits on Sunday with seven players collecting multiple hits. Trice and Wheeler both led the way with three base knocks. Battle was 2-for-3 at the plate with two walks and two runs scored.
Zuberer III had two of WKU’s four hits on the afternoon. Starting pitcher Luke Stofel took the loss after allowing four runs on four hits in one inning of work.
The Monarchs conclude the regular season with a pair of nonconference road games with Louisiana Tech on Thursday and Friday. Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m. starts. ODU then remains in Ruston, Louisiana for the C-USA Tournament, which begins on Wednesday, May 26.