BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Tanner Hicks turned in a strong performance on the mound and Troy used a pair of big innings to defeat Western Kentucky 11-3 Friday night at Nick Denes Field in the Sun Belt Conference series opener.
Hicks (4-2) worked a career-best eight innings and tied a career-high with eight strikeouts. The junior right-hander held the Hilltoppers scoreless over the first seven innings before WKU scratched three runs in the eighth. Hicks scattered seven hits, walked three and allowed three runs in the victory.
Troy (24-9, 8-5 Sun Belt), who moved into a four-way tie for first place in the Sun Belt, won for the fourth straight time (three in a row on the road) and for the 11th time in 13 games.
After both teams combined for just two hits over the first four innings, Troy pounded out five hits, including three doubles, en route to four runs in the fifth inning.
Josh McDorman opened the frame with a double to left-center field and Matthew Howard moved him to third with a bunt single. Jakob Nixon plated McDorman on a sacrifice fly and Ali Knowles followed with a single to left to put runners at first and second.
Brandon Brown moved both runners up a base with a sacrifice bunt and Tyler Vaughn answered with a two-run double to left-center field. Logan Pierce extended his streak of reaching base to 38 games by drawing a five-pitch walk and Danny Collins drove in Vaughn with a double.
Howard capped a five-run Troy seventh inning with his first home run of the season, a three-run blast to left field. Pierce drove home Vaughn with a one-out double and then scored on an error by the Hilltoppers before Howard’s homer.
Howard finished 3-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and three RBIs in the game while Vaughn was 2-for-4 and scored twice. With his two runs scored, Vaughn passed Campbell’s Ben McQuown for the national lead with 47 runs scored on the year.
Trae Santos continued his power surge with a majestic home run to right field in the ninth. The two-run blast was his ninth of the season and his eighth in the last 16 games.
The Hilltoppers finally broke through against Hicks in the eighth on an RBI single by Scott Wilcox and a two-run single by Devin Kelly.
Tanner Perkins (2-2) took the loss for WKU after he allowed four runs on six hits in six innings of work; he two and struck out seven.
Troy will try up wrap up the series on Saturday when the teams meet for game two of the set; first pitch is set for 3 p.m.